10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida To Visit in the New Year

What’s on your travel bucket list for 2019? Each year, I love to explore new places, both near and far. (There’s a reason my blog has the word “wanderlust” in its name!) Living in Central Florida for nearly 10 years, I find myself constantly falling in love with different neighborhoods, botanical gardens, museums, and restaurants, and just as I start to think I’ve seen it all, the adventure begins again and I wind up someplace new.

There’s something magical about playing tourist in your own home, and here in Central Florida, we’re fortunate to have so many unique places to discover. We are surrounded by theme parks and other attractions that visitors travel thousands of miles to see. But we also have our share of hidden gemsboth in Orlando and in its surrounding areas.

I’ve teamed up with some amazing local bloggers and influencers to bring you 10 hidden gems worth exploring in 2019. From restaurants and events to historic homes and gardens, this list really has it all. These spots are all within about two hours (or less) of Orlando, perfect for a weekend afternoon outing! Check out their features below, and be sure to pop over to their sites for more great content. (Photos are credited to the bloggers below!)

10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida to Visit in the New Year

10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: TheOrlandoDuo.com

1. Revolution Off Road (Clermont, FL) — The Orlando Duo
One of our favorite aspects of living in Central Florida is being able to experience the outdoors year round. For us, Revolution Off Road is the perfect way to see Florida’s natural beauty in a fun and unique way. There is something inherently cool about driving a ATV and taking it around to see lakes, trees and wildlife. Plus, you go through mud puddles so you will get dirty too! If ATVs aren’t your speed, Revolution Off Road also features fishing, clay shooting and other activities. We break down our experience and give you some tips and tricks on our blog!
{ Blog: The Orlando Duo; Instagram: @theorlandoduo; Facebook: @theorlandoduoTwitter: @theorlandoduoPinterest: @theorlandoduo }

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2. Wat Thai Temple (Brandon, FL) — Pursuing Happiness // Kiva Williams
If you are ever in the Tampa area on a Sunday, it’s a must that you check out this hidden local gem in the Palm River area of town. Wat Mongkolratanaram, or Wat Thai Temple as it is also commonly known, is a foodie’s dream! This beautiful outdoor market is sure to get your tastebuds tap dancing around. Be sure to bring your appetite and cash only! Check out my vlog’s recap about all of the yummy goodness.
Blog: Pursuing HappinessInstagram: @pursuit_of_true_happinessFacebook: @pursuinghappiness4ever }

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10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida to Visit in the New Year | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: ChristopherCupcakes.com

3. Leu Gardens (Orlando, FL) — Christopher Cupcakes
We recently decided to tour the beautiful Leu Gardens here in Orlando, Florida. The Harry P. Leu Gardens are a semi-tropical and tropical garden here in Orlando. Well, isn’t any garden in Florida tropical? The gardens are divided into different themes across the 50 acres and Leu Gardens is bordered on one side by a lake. The grounds are shaded by 200 year old oaks dripping in Spanish Moss giving off that Old Southern charm we all know and love when living here in the South. Leu Gardens holds special events and classes throughout the year so check out their site to see what is going on. If you are ever in the area, make sure to go tour these beautiful gardens.
For more from Christopher about Leu Gardens, check out his full article at Christopher Cupcakes by clicking here.
Blog: Christopher CupcakesInstagram: @christopher.cupcakes; Facebook: Christopher Cupcakes; Twitter: @chris_cupcakes1 }

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4. General Public House (Winter Springs, FL) — Tel Wallace
We are all creatures of habit, and when we get used to doing the same thing in the same area, it can be difficult to try something new. I’m extremely guilty of this. My husband and I lived downtown for 3 years and anything outside of a five mile radius seemed too far to travel. So wouldn’t you know it, we ended up closing on a home TWENTY miles outside of downtown (shocker)! And as you can guess, we had to change our “only hang out downtown” mentality. It was honestly a blessing in disguise. With this newfound freedom to venture the outskirts of Orlando, I was thrilled to try a new restaurant in Winter Springs. My friend Dana, had been raving about General Public House, and it was about time I try it. First, can I just tell you how absolutely cute this place is, it’s like a farmhouse meets modern dream! I not only loved the aesthetics but the service was phenomenal too, and we even got a free appetizer! The kitchen demos food daily and the manager, CJ, sweetly decided Dana and I deserved it that day. I’ve only been there for lunch (the Hand Held Salmon BLT was amazing) but they offer a killer brunch that I fully intend to come back for. If you’re looking for a cute and tasty place to check out, this hidden gem is the place to go!
Instagram: @tel_wallace }

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10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida to Visit in the New Year | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: JIsForJourney.com

5. Downtown Winter Garden — J Is For Journey // Jessica Ortega
Central Floridians have a lot of options when choosing between cute historic downtowns: there’s idyllic Mount Dora, or up-and-coming Sanford, and then there is the mainstay Winter Park. However, there is one downtown scene that I absolutely love that is not on this list: Winter Garden. My dad is a train aficionado so I’m totally a sucker for a cute train depot, and Winter Garden can check that off your list with the Central Florida Railroad Museum. They also have an incredibly lively Heritage Museum filled with historic items, memorabilia, and interesting local lore. During you can wander in and out of cute boutique shops, a brewery (a requirement for day tripping), cozy coffee shops, and swinging benches down a flower-lined median. Yep, this place has it all! And if you are still downtown in the evening, the Garden Theatre often has vintage movies or live theater shows.
Blog: J Is For Journey; Instagram: @jisforjourney }

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6. Orange Tree Antiques Mall (Winter Park, FL) — So Damn Local // Sarah Bolandi
A few years ago, I became a voracious record collector. Part of the fun, or I’d say most of it, has been not just the hunt for records but for shops. There’s something about the smell of old, dusty record sleeves and the faint sound of a slightly obscure but familiar song at vinyl shops that sends me into record nirvana. This summer, I was shown quite possibly the most dive-y of all record spots I’ve been to (excluding flea markets). The Orange Tree Antiques Mall in Winter Park has a bit of a hidden gem in the back. Past the retro pez dispensers and random knick knacks is small space filled with hundreds of completely disorganized records. During the rainy season, a soothing drip came from somewhere in the ceiling as I got lost in hours of vinyl hunting. While alphabetical order is typically helpful, the disarray adds to the charm. Of all the Central Florida spots, this on is my go-to shop for the old and extra smelly, super cheap records, quietly tucked inside an antique store.
Instagram: @sodamnlocalFacebook: @sodamnlocal }

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10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida to Visit in the New Year | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: @_myownmelody_

7. Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens (Kissimmee, FL) — My Own Melody // Courtney Dias
You don’t need to travel around the world to be adventurous. Sometimes the best traveling you can do is right in your hometown. A short drive from home, I found a place I would love to share with you. Island Grove Wine Company has such a classic countryside feel with Parisian accent. Once inside, everything seemed so effortlessly placed to intrigue their guests, whether drinking around the bar located in the center or just wandering around finding the cutest trinkets, merchandise, and endless amounts of wine. You also could feel the warmth of the staff, which makes them feel more like friends rather than strangers. If you’re ever in Florida and want to explore something new or simply want to enjoy great hospitality, definitely stop by Island Grove Wine Company at Formosa Gardens for a date night. You can do anything from dinner (side note: the food is so good), wine tasting with the girls, or a paint and sip event. Trust me when I say, this truly is a hidden gem that makes being away from home a bit more sweeter.
Want to read more from Courtney’s experience? Stay tuned for her upcoming guest blog here at Wellness & Wanderlust!
Instagram: @_myownmelody_ }

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10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: NatureCoaster.com


8. Chinsegut Hill Manor Museum and Retreat Center (Brooksville, FL) — NatureCoaster // Diane Bedard
High atop a hill in Brooksville Florida, about an hour north of Tampa and two hours west of Orlando is an historically significant home that offers tours, nature trails, comfortable retreat cabins, and a spirit where lost things are regained; Chinsegut Manor Museum. Originally homesteaded in in the 1800s, this three story gem has two wrap-around porches – on the first and second stories – and views to make North Carolina proud. Chinsegut Hill’s last private owners were dedicated to human rights and moved in powerful political circles, with Raymond Robins being an advisor to 7 U.S. Presidents. Their clothing, artwork, furniture and spirits are still on “the Hill,” which they named “Chinsegut,” an Alaskan Inuit word meaning “the spirit of things lost and regained.” Visitors such as Helen Keller, J.C. Penney, Thomas Edison came to Chinsegut to visit Raymond Robins, Margaret Drier Robins and Elizabeth Robins.

Visitors can tour the grounds, opt for a self-guided tour or a guided tour, rent the cabins overnight, discover the WPA-built outbuildings, visit the tiny cemetery where some of the previous residents are resting or plan an event. The museum features a second story room where visitors can read letters of the day and explore the people that made history here.
You can read more about this beautiful manor and the families who have lived there on NatureCoaster!
Blog: NatureCoaster; Instagram: @nature.coasterFacebook: @naturecoaster }

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Photo Credit: CityWhit.com

9. Historic St. Augustine — CityWhit // Whitney Gonzalez
Hike just over an hour from Orlando to explore the oldest city in the U.S.–St. Augustine. The walkable historical destination is packed with interesting things to do, including climbing 219 steps to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and exploring Castillo San Marcos for an artillery demonstration. The city also has a reputation for being one of the most haunted cities. Catch a ghost tour while you’re in town and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Blog: CityWhitInstagram: @city.whit; Facebook: @city.whit }

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10 Hidden Gems in Central Florida | Wellness & Wanderlust

Photo Credit: KimKonnection.com

10. Taste Events — Kim Konnection // Kimberly Thevenin
Although it is known for sunshine, Disney World, and its hometown team (go Knights), Central Florida is also home to something usually reserved for the likes of NYC – delicious eats. From local chains to small, family-owned restaurants, Central Florida is home to a variety of tasty places to grab a bite. It can be hard to test out all the foods Central Florida has to offer but luckily a few cities are making that task a little easier with their Taste events, which allow people to try food and drink samples from nearby restaurants. For pricing, these events either charge a ticket for entry and allow you to eat anything available, or have free entry and you only pay for the food you try. Taste of Winter Park (April), Taste of Oviedo (March) and Taste Central Florida (September) are a few of my favorite local taste events and I highly recommend them if you’re looking for something
unique to do while you’re in town.
Blog: Kim Konnection; Instagram: @kimkonnectionTwitter: @kimkonnection }

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Thank you to all of our local bloggers who contributed! I can’t wait to check out your hidden gem locations in 2019. 

Readers, what parts of Central Florida are you most excited to explore this year? Sound off in the comments!

Rainy Day Adventures: Downtown DeLand & Museum of Art

Why let a rainy day stop us from having a good time? For months, my friend and I have been looking forward to visiting Bok Towers for the Christmas tour of Pinewood Estates (read about our summer visit here), but when we checked the forecast this morning, we realized that a nearly 2-hour drive to a botanical garden was probably not the best idea for the day. Instead, we decided to stick a little closer to home with a trip to Downtown DeLand.

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

I’m a huge fan of historic downtowns, and DeLand’s historic district does not disappoint. From fun shopping to local eateries, Downtown DeLand is the perfect stop for a weekend adventure.

We kicked off our visit with brunch at a little bistro called Byte. The breakfast sandwich was a delicious pick-me-up to start the day. The restaurant also offers a bottomless bloody Mary and mimosa bar for those wanting to experience a more boozy brunch. After our meal, we wandered over to the Museum of Art.

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

For just $5 each, we received admission to the museum’s downtown campus, as well as access to their main campus within the next three days. Exhibits change every three months, but we arrived just in time for the Barbara Neijna Full Circle: Considering Infinity exhibit. Spanning across three galleries, Neijna’s art utilizes mixed media and explores the idea of infinity through its many circles. Although the museum was small, the galleries were well worth the visit.

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

After exploring the museum, it was time to do a little shopping. Downtown DeLand is known for its antique shops, so a must-visit for any shopper on a rainy day is Marketplace at Rivertown. This three-story, multi-dealer antique market sells a variety of antique and vintage products, from furniture to artwork to jewelry to clothing. I’ve purchased a few unique gifts here before, and you can find some great stuff if you’re willing to look around.

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

We also stopped by The Muse Book Shop next door, where I ended up purchasing a book of poetry. On the second Wednesday of the month, they host a Wine, Women, and Chocolate event, which I’ll definitely need to attend in the future. The shop offers used books in just about every genre, and includes an entire room dedicated to Florida.

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

The day ended with a trip to Pat & Toni’s Sweet Things for a sugar fix. (Hey, I’m not starting my Whole30 until after the holidays, right?) 🙂 I indulged in a chocolate-covered s’more (yum!), while my friend Carrie enjoyed a classic butter pecan ice cream cone. The shop is filled with chocolate, fudge, ice cream, and other candies – perfect gift items for anyone in your life with a sweet tooth!

Your Guide to a Day in Downtown DeLand

The weather may have toggled between overcast and rainy, but we still ended up having a great time exploring Downtown DeLand while sticking to mainly indoor activities. If you’re looking for a fun new neighborhood to explore, take the trip to DeLand and see it for yourself!

For other art museums and galleries in Central Florida to explore on a rainy day, check out my local art guide here!

Let the Good Times Roll: Things to Do in New Orleans

Things To Do in New OrleansIf you’re wondering why New Orleans keeps popping up on your newsfeed, I promise you’re not alone. It turns out NOLA is the number one travel destination of 2018, and has topped all the major lists for where to visit this year. I was unaware of this when I ventured out to New Orleans this January (an unlikely place for a mother/daughter vacation that turned out to be one of the best yet).

We covered a lot of the French Quarter on this trip, sampling some great food and learning about the diverse New Orleans culture along the way. We visited during Carnival Season, so it was an especially exciting time to see the city as it prepared for Mardi Gras.

If you’re among the many planning to visit New Orleans in the near future, check out my suggested itinerary items below! Please note: This was a mother/daughter trip, so even though we stayed in the French Quarter, we did not spend much time on Bourbon Street (especially after watching the streets get cleaned in the mornings!).

Things to Do in New Orleans

What We Did: The Highlights

  • City Sightseeing Hop On/Hop Off Tour
    Longtime readers of my blog are probably aware that these tours are my favorite way to begin exploring a new city! We hopped on and off the trolley at different popular stops throughout New Orleans, and because the weather was unseasonably cold, we ended up extending to a three-day pass. Our tour guides were excellent and each provided their own unique flavor.
  • Mardi Gras World
    You can’t go to New Orleans and not experience Mardi Gras in some way! At Mardi Gras World (which happened to also be a convenient stop on our bus tour), we watched artists and craftsmen as they built and designed Mardi Gras floats for this year’s parades. We learned about the holiday’s history, as well as the work that goes into building the floats. On our way out, we were invited to try on costumes and have a piece of King Cake. Mardi Gras World is a must-visit for anyone traveling to New Orleans for the first time, and only takes about an hour and a half.
  • Ghost Tour
    Any time I visit a city with a lot of history, I like to take a ghost/cemetery tour. The Haunted History Ghost Tour did not disappoint! The tour gave a lot of background into the city’s history (including Katrina-era), and fully reaffirmed my belief in ghosts!
  • Gallier House and Herman-Grima House
    I grouped these two historic homes together because you can purchase a discounted ticket that grants admission to both houses and they are located within a few blocks of each other. Learn about the families who inhabited these homes, the architectural styles they used, and the historic context.
  • Garden District Walking Tour
    No trip to the Big Easy is complete without a trip to the Garden District, a quieter neighborhood of New Orleans lined with oak trees, historic homes, and adorable shops and cafés. Our hop on/hop off tour included a walking tour of the Garden District, but if you don’t have time for that, it is still a beautiful place to wander.

Things to Do in New Orleans

Where We Ate

  • Café du Monde
    Forget your diet — beignets are a must on any New Orleans trip! We visited the iconic Café du Monde around 7 a.m. on a weekend and managed to arrive before the crowds lined up. A few tricks to get in quickly: Be sure to grab a table as soon as one becomes available. Get there early if possible to avoid the wait; otherwise, you can get your food relatively quickly if you grab it to-go from the window. Know what you want as soon as you sit down — the restaurant is so busy that it’s likely your server will collect the bill as soon as your food arrives. Luckily, the menu is straightforward and limited, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble deciding what to order. My suggestion: a plate of three beignets and a cup of hot chocolate! Make sure you bring cash.
  • The District
    This restaurant in the Garden District was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on the Food Network. New Orleans is known for its cuisine, but of all the food we ate on this trip, the sliders and waffle fries at The District were my absolute favorite meal. Grab a donut to go on your way out! To stay in theme with Mardi Gras, we ordered the King Cake donut.
  • Remoulade
    Located in the French Quarter, Remoulade is the more casual, budget-friendly sister restaurant of Arnaud’s. I ordered a delicious lemon marinated grilled chicken, but the restaurant also serves po boys, seafood, burgers, franks and more.
  • Deanie’s Seafood
    I’m not much for seafood, but I did break out of my shell at Deanie’s Seafood, trying out the fried catfish and charbroiled oysters. While I struggled with the texture, I actually really liked the lemon butter flavor! The restaurant also serves a variety of gumbos, salads, sandwiches and other seafood.
  • PJ’s Coffee
    I saw more of this coffee shop than Starbucks!

Have you traveled to NOLA recently? Share your favorite spots in the comments section below!

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Things I’m Loving Lately: Hummustir

Hey there, readers! For all of my fellow Floridians, I hope you are getting yourselves prepared for Hurricane Irma over the next few days. It is certainly a scary time to live in the Sunshine State, and I can honestly say that I’m so ready for hurricane season to be over.

In honor of my blog’s relaunch as Wellness & Wanderlust, I’m excited to announce my newest feature: Things I’m Loving Lately. I may not be as influential as Oprah and her “favorite things,” but I can’t wait to share some of my own favorite things with all of you. I’m constantly trying out new products in the wellness sphere, so when I come across something great, I’ll be sure to share it with you right here. 🙂

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We’re kicking things off with something incredibly tasty and timely. Meet Hummustir, a new hummus brand with a truly fresh taste and all natural ingredients. An amateur party-planner and lover of Mediterranean food, I firmly believe that no appetizer spread is complete without a good hummus. What sets Hummustir apart — and makes it a must-have for your hurricane supply shopping list — is that it remains shelf-safe in your pantry for up to a year without refrigeration. It’s also completely preservative-free (really!).

How it works: Hummustir is split into three packages, all in one tub, which include pureed chickpeas, tahini, and spices. Empty the contents of each package into the tub and stir them up with the spoon provided (hence the name Hummustir!) for some straight up deliciousness.

Things I'm Loving Lately: HummustirI’ve tried the Mediterranean Style and Village Style flavors, which I absolutely loved. We served Hummustir at a family gathering, and I’ve brought a few containers to class. It was a hit among family members and grad students alike!

Hummustir is available in your local Walmart and select retailers (find your closest store here), but you can also order online through Amazon and choose from a variety of flavors. Each flavor is vegan, preservative-free, and non-GMO.

I constantly struggle to find healthy food that I can serve when I entertain, but Hummustir does not disappoint. It is the perfect addition to any party or get-together! Give it a try and check out some of their recipes online for inspiration in the kitchen. Can’t wait to hear about what you end up making!

Have you tried Hummustir? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Turmeric Scrambled Eggs

One of my biggest struggles on the Whole30 over the past few rounds has been making sure I get enough protein into my diet — and the easiest source of protein for me has been eggs. Eggs are a fantastic superfood, can be hard-boiled in large batches for portable nutrition, and don’t require the same level of attention as handling raw meat.

Of course, eggs get a bad rap by Day 10 of a Whole30, as we start to grow sick of the monotony. After all, many of us feel like we’re eating Gaston-level portions of eggs! When I’m not following Whole30, I love scrambling my eggs with a little cheese, but because my diet is currently dairy-free, I’m stuck with a really boring breakfast.

Recently, I started experimenting in the kitchen to make a better, more flavorful scrambled egg dish. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory, while cumin is a good source of iron and may be beneficial for diabetics and asthmatics. This “recipe” is so easy that I can barely call it a recipe, but too delicious not to share!

Turmeric Scrambled Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • A few shakes of turmeric (to your liking)
  • A few shakes of cumin (to your liking)
  • Salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Melt your ghee over medium heat.
  2. Crack in your eggs and stir.
  3. Sprinkle on turmeric and cumin to your liking, and mix.
  4. Scramble until eggs are as well done as you prefer.
  5. Salt to taste.
  6. Serve.

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think! Please share and subscribe to my blog for more recipes, Whole30 resources and other goodies!

Curry Coconut Crusted Chicken Bites

Do you ever create a full meal plan for the week, only to find that you’re just not in the mood to eat what you planned for that day? I was completely guilty of that last Monday. My chicken was defrosted and my veggies were all set to go under the knife, but I was craving my favorite curried cauliflower and potato recipe and couldn’t get those flavors off of my mind. Ultimately, my cravings won out (hey – at least they’re healthy, right?), and I needed a protein to balance out the meal.

Thus, my curry coconut crusted chicken bites recipe was born!

Curry Coconut Crusted Chicken Bites

Those who have known me for a while know that I do not have a cooking background. Before college, I didn’t know how to boil water. For the first year after college, I didn’t know how to do much else. Thankfully, several rounds of Whole30 have forced me to learn the basics, and after trying out several recipes on the web, I’m finally starting to gain my own creativity in the kitchen.

These chicken bites are easy to make, are completely gluten-free/dairy-free/soy-free/sugar-free (perfect for Whole30), and have a kick-ass flavor profile. They paired amazingly with my aloo gobi, so much so that I repeated the recipe a few days later!

I live alone and generally only cook for one person, so this recipe is written with one serving in mind. If you eat larger portions or are serving multiple people, you’ll want to modify the recipe accordingly. 🙂

Curry Coconut Crusted Chicken Bites

Ingredients:

  • One chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut (check your labels!)
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • Salt and garlic to taste
  • 1 egg

Instructions

1-     Preheat oven to 400°F.

2-     Mix egg in one bowl and dry ingredients in separate bowl.

3-     Coat each chicken piece in egg, then in coconut mixture.

4-     Bake for 10 minutes.

5-     With a spoon, flip each chicken piece on the baking sheet, and bake for another 5 minutes.

6-     Remove from oven, let cool and enjoy!

Let me know what you guys think! 🙂 Please share and subscribe to my blog for more recipes, Whole30 resources and other goodies. Enjoy!

Link Love Wednesday: Post Valentine’s Day Bliss

Link LoveHope everyone who celebrated had a wonderful Valentine’s Day or, for many of us, Day-To-Eat-All-The-Things! I’ll admit that my Whole60 went off the rails around the holiday, with a few nights out to dinner and more chocolate temptation than I knew what to do with. Thankfully, my junk food honeymoon period is reaching its end, and I’m ready to start trying new healthy recipes again. How did everyone else celebrate the holiday?

As you recover from your own sugar comas, take a look at the latest and greatest in Link Love! 🙂

What are some of your favorite links throughout the week?

Whole30 Recap: Week 1

t-338Hi there, Whole30-ers!

For those of you who are completing the site-wide January Whole30 as part of your New Year’s Resolutions, Mazel Tov on finishing your first week. For those of my readers who are not familiar with the program but eager to learn more about it, you can read my introductory post here. I am so excited to share my own Whole30 experiences with you on a week-by-week basis. Every time I have done this program, I have learned new things about myself and developed positive new habits. I can’t wait to see what this month brings!

Before I proceed with my week of meals, please note the following disclaimers:

  • I am not a medical professional of any kind and I will not claim that what has worked for me will work for you. If you have any medical questions, please consult a professional.
  • This is not a full meal-plan for everyone following the Whole30. There are some days where I just can’t handle a large meal, so I might just stick to roasted veggies or something light. There are other days when I might eat a small (compliant) snack in between meals, and those snacks are not necessarily reported on my blog. Please listen to your body. We are all different!
  • I repeat meals that I enjoy. You will not be getting a list of 90 different dishes, mainly because I am a creature of habit and when something tastes good, I want to have it again! 🙂 However, I will still be testing out new recipes every week, while rotating in some of the old favorites.
  • You can follow along on my Instagram page, where I post meals and recipe ideas daily!

And now, onto the meals!

Day 1 (Jan. 1)

originalFeelings: I woke up feeling like crap on New Year’s Day. My nose was stuffed up, my skin was completely broken out, and I had an awful headache that my mom and I attributed to a food hangover, probably from all the pizza and junk food I gorged out on the night before. I tried to begin the day in a totally zen, conquer-all-my-resolutions-at-once way, but it quickly turned into a Kill All The Things kind of day.

Breakfast: My mom’s scrambled eggs (yum!) and a bowl of strawberries.

Lunch: Salad with grilled chicken and cucumber slices, topped with balsamic vinegar.

Moroccan Carrot Salad!

Moroccan Carrot Salad! This has probably been the most popular food picture I’ve ever posted on Instagram, and it tastes delicious.

Dinner: Moroccan Carrot Salad (inspired by @bloemingfabulous’s recipe on Instagram) and a hard-boiled egg. (For the carrot salad, I season with just paprika and cinnamon, and leave out the almonds. I could go either way with the cilantro – tastes good with or without it!)

Day 2 (Jan. 2)

Feelings: My stomach felt a lot less bloated today, but my headache from Day 1 stuck with me until mid-afternoon on Day 2.

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and an Apple + Banana Trader Joe’s bar. (These bars are a nice on-the-go option when you don’t have a lot of time, but you will probably want to pair with a protein.)

Lunch: Sweet Potato Hash (sweet potato diced and cooked with olive oil, salt, pepper and any other seasoning) and a salad with cucumber, strawberries, and a hard boiled egg.

Dinner: Coconut Chicken (made by my mom, but not unlike this recipe, except she used coconut flour instead of almond), broccoli and baked sweet potato.

 Day 3 (Jan. 3)

Feelings: It was great to wake up without a headache! I felt well-rested when I woke up this morning. The day was bittersweet, because it was my last day in South Florida on vacation, so I had to pack up my car and say goodbye to my family that afternoon. Still, I felt somewhat clear-headed and better than I’d felt the past two days.

My mom's famous scrambled eggs!

My mom’s famous scrambled eggs!

Breakfast: One more round of my mom’s scrambled eggs (I never make them as well at home, so I had to take advantage on my last day!) and a bowl of strawberries and blackberries.

Lunch: Leftover coconut chicken, broccoli and a nectarine.

Dinner: Hard-boiled egg and a bag of grapes. (I was driving around dinnertime and couldn’t stop for dinner, so I had these packed ahead of time to eat in the car.)

Day 4 (Jan. 4)

Feelings: I started to notice a big difference in my skin by Day 4. My skin felt a lot smoother (although some of that could have been from all the time spent in my parents’ saltwater pool!), but I also noticed that my eczema breakout from back home was finally clearing up. In the mirror, I saw that my face looked less puffy than it had looked in a while. The only negative symptom on Day 4 was that my awful headache decided to return.

Breakfast: Moroccan Carrot Salad. (Throughout this Whole30 series, you’ll start to notice that this is one of my favorite meals… In fact, I can eat it at all times of the day!)

You can throw together a salad so quickly with whatever ingredients you have!

You can throw together a salad so quickly with whatever ingredients you have!

Lunch: Salad with strawberries and a hard-boiled egg.

Dinner: Zesty Chicken Bites (from Lexi’s Clean Kitchen) and a bowl of roasted broccoli (drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic, and cook for 20 minutes at 400F).

Day 5 (Jan. 5)

Feelings: I was exhausted this morning! This probably had something to do with the fact that this was my first day back at work in two weeks, so I had to adjust to getting up earlier and getting back into my old routine. I was also extremely bloated on Day 5, but my face still looked thinner and less puffy.

Breakfast: Apple with almond butter, cinnamon and a few raisins sprinkled on top.

Lunch: Salad with strawberries, hard-boiled egg, cucumber and blackberries.

Cucumber Pasta Salad may have been my favorite recipe all week!

Cucumber Pasta Salad may have been my favorite recipe all week!

Dinner: Cucumber “Pasta” Salad (from Holistically Engineered) and a hard-boiled egg. The pasta salad was to die for and my very first experience with a vegetable spiralizer! The dressing was superb, and I will definitely make a bottle of it in the future to use on other salads. I skipped the olives and instead of grape tomatoes, I decided to be extra fancy and use actual grapes.

Day 6 (Jan. 6)

Feelings: I was even more exhausted on Day 6 than I was on Day 5. I definitely could have used a nap! I was no longer bloated, but I had a lot of stomach pain throughout the day – I even woke up in the middle of the night with it! Because of this, I stuck to smaller meals and tried to drink more water instead.

Breakfast: Banana with almond butter.

Lunch: Roasted broccoli.

Cauliflower “couscous” features cauliflower, cilantro and raisins (yum!), while this Moroccan chicken combines pretty much every spice in my cabinet.

Dinner: Cauliflower Couscous (from Unbageled) and Moroccan Chicken (pan-fried instead of grilled onto kebobs, inspired by Closet Cooking). This has been one of my more adventurous meals and my first experience with cauliflower rice. It was delicious!

Day 7 (Jan. 7)

Feelings: When I woke up on Day 7, I realized it was the first time in a while that I slept completely through the night! I felt a lot more well-rested, and when I looked in the mirror, I noticed that I looked a little smaller around the ribcage.

Breakfast: Two hard boiled eggs. How fancy!

Lunch: Moroccan Carrot Salad.

Dinner: Salad with strawberries, grapes and a hard-boiled egg.

Takeaways from the Week

  • No matter how experienced of a chef you are (or in my case, inexperienced), it is still important to try out new techniques. I used a spiralizer and riced cauliflower for the first time this week, and will definitely be incorporating both of those into my meals in the future!
  • My selfies will never get as many Instagram likes as my food pictures. (Waaaaah.)
  • I may not be experiencing all of the fabulous feelings I have gotten from previous rounds of Whole30, but I know that these things take time. My job is to be patient and keep at it! I am still feeling a thousand times better today than I did on Day 1.

How is your Whole30 going? Any recipes or tips you’d like to share? Feel free to add yours in the comments section below!

And don’t forget to follow me at @veemoze on Instagram for more recipe and food excitement!

Dinner Table Etiquette: How to Talk to Someone With Dietary Restrictions

480845_601090163258974_1110035571_nFor the past few months, I have experimented with an elimination diet. Alternating between the strict Whole 30 program and a more relaxed, mostly clean eating lifestyle, I have learned a lot about myself and my reactions to certain foods. (As an added bonus, I experienced weight loss, increased energy levels, improved mood and the best skin of my life!)

During that time, I have discovered that no two people are exactly alike when it comes to what works best for them and what kind of diet/routine they can most realistically stick with. However, the more ingrained I become in my healthy new lifestyle, the more I have been met with skepticism and some very strange faux-concern, and the more that I have learned just how judgmental our society is regarding food and dietary restrictions.

I suppose I had witnessed some of this before, but never firsthand. When a vegetarian or vegan discusses his or her choice to stop eating meat or animal byproducts, naysayers are always quick to say, “That isn’t healthy at all! What about all those nutrients you are missing out on?” (The best part is when someone says this while eating something undeniably processed or bad for you, like a bag of Cheetos.) When someone mentions a gluten intolerance, we dismiss what might be a very real sensitivity for them as simply a fad diet. If a person’s choice in cuisine is different from our own, we lunge at the opportunity to correct him or her, regardless of how informed we really are.

Cartoon_--_crouton_makes_saladBack in February, I embarked on my first Whole 30. For the next 30 days, I eliminated gluten, added sugars, legumes, dairy and various processed foods. Since then, I have completed my second Whole 30 and am currently on Day 3 of my third. When I am not on the program, I occasionally add in some of the above foods in moderation, but find I have less of a craving for them and now am aware of which ones have had negative effects on me. While several people were skeptical (“What can you eat during this program?!?!?”) and it has certainly been a challenge (I love me some simple carbs), the program was actually quite similar to what my doctor had been suggesting to me for years.

And yet, we are quick to dismiss someone’s dietary restrictions or lifestyle because it doesn’t fit into our own nutritional ideals. Why? To me, the only other people whose opinions matter on this subject are my doctors and, to an extent, my parents. Aside from a few basic standards – fruits and vegetables are healthier than Dorito’s, for example – there are many points in nutrition and weight loss where people (especially non-professionals) are going to disagree. “Is paleo the way to go, or should I go on Weight Watchers?” “Should I weigh myself every day, or throw out my scale?” “Are grains really the enemy?” The trouble is, we each have different bodies, minds and relationships with food. Therefore, can we really all fit into one box? Should we?

2161-300x300When you meet someone whose dietary preferences or restrictions aren’t the same as yours, listen and be respectful. (Tweet this!) Ask questions if you wish to learn more, but don’t try to pressure another person into something just because you think it is the right way. (Of course, if a friend or family member is consuming dangerously too few calories or exhibiting signs of an eating disorder, you may want to step in. Again, be kind and check your judgment at the door – food and body image are very difficult and emotional issues for many people.)

I truly believe the Whole 30 has changed my life for the better, and will happily talk to friends who are curious about the program or about the less restrictive changes I’ve made. However, I don’t believe in pushing my views on somebody else. I know several vegans/vegetarians, people who keep Kosher, people who avoid gluten, people who count calories, people who want to lose weight and people who want to gain weight, and I believe that different bodies and minds will benefit from different routines. Aside from a few basic principles, there really is no one size fits all, so let’s not offer unsolicited advice that may not work as well for someone else as it does for us.

In short, be kind and don’t dismiss others. Isn’t that how we should be living our lives anyway? 🙂

Link Love: Clean Eating Tips and Resources

clean-eating-someecard2Happy Friday, readers! I hope everyone has had a fabulous week – I know I did. 🙂 On Wednesday, I finished a 30-day clean eating program called the Whole 30 (see website here for more details), which requires you to eliminate dairy, sugar/sweeteners, grains, legumes and many processed foods from your diet to improve your overall health. Although I don’t often write about nutrition and dieting, I have wanted to kick a lot of bad food habits out of my life for a long time.

Last month, I embarked on the Whole 30 program, and over the next 30 days, I improved my eczema and asthma, increased my energy levels by a lot and even lost 10 pounds, thanks to eating right and avoiding some of the nasty chemicals found in a lot of addictive junk food.

I shared parts of my journey on Instagram, where I received a lot of positive feedback. During this time, I have also received a lot of questions from friends about eating clean and where I found a lot of my recipes. I am not an expert by any means, but I have learned a lot and am thankful for all of the great resources I found online. This week, I would like to share those with you!

What are some of your favorite clean eating websites? What tips or recipes do you have for any of these programs? Have you ever tried the Whole 30 program?