Grave Reminder

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This may sound a little dark, but I’ve been sitting in a lot of cemeteries lately.

I’m fascinated by how people have chosen to commemorate themselves (and, often, how others have chosen to commemorate them). There are headstones that reach fifteen feet into the air, with marble columns and a clay bust of the deceased. There are mausoleums and gardens. And, there are old, broken headstones on which you can barely read the name and date.

The cemetery almost feels busy, like you’re standing in the middle of a big crowd of people. It also feels like you’re intruding, in a way, to very private moments of someone’s life and legacy.

In graveyards, I am continually reminded that no matter how huge or opulent the headstone, all of these people are gone. They’re dead. These people could have had all the money in the world, with their massive graves and bundles of fresh flowers, but – at the end of the day – they’re in the ground.

So, let my sitting on a bench in a cemetery in Vienna remind you that we only have one short life to live. And, every day is important to that short life.

I bet each and every one of the people behind these gravestones – and their families – wish they had another 24 hours to just be with each other.

So, be present with the people you’re around, and love everyone fully. Don’t waste time living to your happiest, fullest potential, because I imagine all the headstones in the cemetery would rush to tell you the same thing.

9 Things That Ground You When You’re Feeling Anxious In A New Place

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A stunning view of Vienna from a (very) steep hill

It’s fun to roam around and explore a new city, but it also can be the source of some anxiety. If you’re in an unfamiliar place and don’t know where things are (or, how to get there), it can be incredibly stressful to navigate. I’m speaking from personal experience, of course. It’s also difficult if you don’t speak the language; there’s a third obstacle to add to the list. So, when you get that wave of fear or a moment of loneliness, here are a few small things that I’ve noticed help keep me grounded.

Smiling at a stranger and having them smile back at you
This tends to work best with middle-aged moms. Young people don’t have time for you and older people tend to frown back because, I think, they’re not used to having young people smile at them.

Finding food that reminds you of your childhood
For me, this is a falafel joint or any kind of Mediterranean spot that serves hummus and/or baklava. Sometimes a little taste of something that spurs nostalgia can warm your heart if you’re feeling isolated.

Smelling flowers
Honestly, it’s just really comforting to stop and take a minute to appreciate what’s around you. Smelling flowers grounds me because A) it’s comforting to realize that these little guys can bloom in the place they’re at, so you can too and B) it brings self-awareness. I recognize the senses I’m using to smell the flowers and my focus is brought to the nature around me.

Finding a view that makes you forget how hard it was to get up there in the first place
I know Miley was all about the climb, but sometimes that climb is tough and sweaty (physically and emotionally). It’s encouraging to get to the top of a hill or mountain and look out over the city or place you’re in. Then, you’re seeing how beautiful the view is, or how small everything looks, or how far the river runs – instead of focusing on fear.

Touching the bark of a really old tree
Similar to smelling flowers, this connection to nature is surprisingly relaxing. I like to stare up into old trees and run my hands along the rough bark, trying to think about how old the tree is or what it has seen. They’ve been standing peacefully for a long time with the earth under their feet.

Seeing a dog playing in the park
This may be more geared towards pet lovers, but nothing brings joy to my heart like seeing a pup loving their life. It makes me so happy to see them playing, or jumping, or licking their owners, or wagging their tails. We get to be responsible for some of these beautiful creatures. And, it also reminds me of my own sweet dog who loves unconditionally.

Stepping on a crunchy fall leaf
Nothing grounds me more than a physical reminder that all of life comes in seasons, both literally, with our four seasons, and metaphorically, with chapters in our own stories. Sometimes the moment it takes to bring your anxiety down is to feel and hear that sensation of autumn, reminding us that this, too, is just another season. And, you can manage it.

Watching people from a park bench
I am a big fan of pausing and sitting, especially in some of the incredible green spaces that you’ll find in bigger cities. Watching people can be fun, but it is also grounding to remember that we as humans all want the same things, and our goals are similar. We want love, dignity, respect, and protection for ourselves and our families. It doesn’t matter who you are or what language you speak – these core values connect us to people wherever we are. It’s also encouraging to think about the goodness in these people; it has been proven to me time and time again while I’ve been traveling that people are willing to help. People are inherently good.

Doing something in your normal routine
Traveling is a whirlwind of new things, so sometimes the thing that helps out an anxious soul is to do something that you know. Go for a run, read your favorite book, have a cup of tea, or lay in the grass. You are not losing yourself in this moment of being lost or fearful; you have the capacity to do whatever you’d like to do.

Do you have something that you’d like to add to this list? I’d love to expand it to help fellow travelers. Tweet me @abbiwilt with your suggestions!

30 Things I’ve Learned From Corporate America

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Courtesy rawpixel.com

Just a few life lessons from my mistakes.

Never ask a celebrity anything other than the question that you are supposed to be asking them, because, chances are, you will forget who you are and ask them something incredibly weird just to impress them, and it will not work. Example (and this is hard to write): One time, Craig Campbell told me that his favorite artist of all time was Keith Whitley. I, for some reason, thought he said Glenn Frey – so I asked him if he was an Eagles fan. Stick to the script, Abbi, stick to the script. It’s also not appropriate to say things like “You smell like gingerbread!” to Reba McEntire.

Always accept free food. Food will not always be free, so make it count. If you don’t want to take it in front of your coworkers, you can stealthily grab a little bit later. But, honestly, everyone wants it, so just do what you want and take that croissant in the morning meeting.

Taco Bell does not count as a suitable lunch when the CEO of the company is walking by your desk. Suitable fast-food lunch options include Subway, Chick-fil-A, and anything that can’t be identified by the smell alone. I have never seen someone eating a hamburger at their desk (but, I’ve seen plenty of Jason’s Deli bags).

Bring something warm to wear. You will need layers. It will either be 50° in your office, or 85°. There is no in-between, and which temperature it will be is always a mystery. Some adopt a blanket as a permanent part of their outfit every day, so pick one you really like (because you’ll be in it 90% of the time). Here’s a meme I made about this very subject:

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Attitudes do not work well in the office, especially when that attitude is #NotMyJob. This will never, ever work for you. Chances are that things will go poorly and you won’t succeed in what you’re trying to do. This is especially important when you’re in the beginning stages of your career and are trying to get a taste for what the company is like (or, what you want to do). If you take on new responsibilities and tasks to establish yourself, you may find that there’s a strength you’ve overlooked or a connection with a mentor that you’ve made. Yes, if your plate is full, you can say no – that’s not my point. You need to be open to either doing something you may not want to or directing someone to the right place to solve the problem. Yes, it IS your job.

Do not hold your ice-cold water cup in the same hand that you shake hands with. It will not go well when you go to greet someone. We had the CEO of the company come in one day from New York for a big presentation, and, at the wine-and-cheese reception following his speech, we lined up to meet him. Sure enough, because I tend to always make these situations a little awkward, I had a glass of ice water in my shaking hand. I realized it when he was only a few people ahead of me, and desperately tried to friction-up my hand. Now, I’m sure, he just think I am especially clammy. Save yourself from this situation and carry those glasses of iced tea in your opposite hand, folks.

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It is better to be the person at the desk who always has forks and Tylenol then the person who doesn’t. I have at least one person per week that either comes to my desk for something that they could find in the chaos of my cube or is referred to my desk by someone else in the office. It doesn’t cost much to always have a few things that people need: Tylenol or Advil, a Tide-To-Go pen, plastic forks, or a lint roller. It’s a very easy way to make friends, and it’s a good reputation to have at the office. I had a colleague once who told me to not tell anyone you had forks, or everyone would be coming to your desk. On the contrary, I like having people stop by my desk for things. It keeps me from having days where I don’t speak to another human being until 11AM.

Do not bring the food for lunch that needs to be microwaved that will jeopardize the smell of the entire office. Fish is a definite no-no. Both tacos and chili smell good but will also waft through the entire office. Just be prepared to answer, “What smells so good?” a handful of times if you opt for these dishes. If you bring snacks, which, obviously I must, do not bring the ones that are so crunchy that every bite makes it sound like you are a T-Rex crushing bones at your desk. Everyone will be able to hear, especially if you’re in a quiet office.

If you have to do an important interview, step away from your open-space-cubicle floor plan. Everyone will be able to hear your interview, and any mistakes that you make. This doesn’t work out well when you’re interviewing one of your celebrity crushes. This happened once when I was on a call with Cole Swindell. The office was uncharacteristically quiet as I did the interview at my desk and then everyone CLAPPED when I hung up the phone. It was mortifying.

Going on a diet will not work for you, especially if you work in a place where free food lives all the time. There will be some sort of food to sabotage your diet every single day, and it may even be at every single meal. There was once a day when I was offered donuts, scones, muffins, pizza, Taziki’s leftovers, spiced pecans, chocolate-covered pretzels, and a slice of coconut cake, all before 4PM. The office is a difficult place to be on a diet. If these issues don’t affect your workplace, go for it kids!

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Be sure to turn your ringer off before you go to your morning meeting. If that sucker goes off and you are over at the conference table with the rest of the group, you have to explain to them why Barefoot Blue Jean Night by Jake Owen is blasting at your desk. It will be the longest minute of your life.

The more people you help, the more people will want to help you. I know that some folks are against adding smiley faces to emails. But, honestly, if you’re working with someone for a while and it’s casual (and/or, you’re being helpful), throw one of those suckers in there. I like getting smiles from people. If you have the time to help someone out with something that makes their life easier, you should do it. Do everything you can to work towards that common goal. And, as you’d expect, people are much more likely to help you out when you’re in a pickle if you’ve been kind to them with favors.

Only print out handouts when they are absolutely necessary. I have wasted almost 2 packs of paper on handouts that could’ve been PDFs in an email. You’ll need to have a paper trail of these, anyways, so be conscientious of the environment and don’t print out more than you need to. And, make sure that the printer is working before you have to print out a large document. If that ends up in the printer queue and everyone is stuck behind you, you will not be the office favorite.

Drive slowly around the turns in the parking deck, because you do not want to get in an accident with one of your coworkers. That could and would be incredibly awkward. I actually have a friend who this happened to – she was hit by another coworker in the garage. Do you really want to exchange insurance information with the company’s creative director? And, news of this caliber would spread like wildfire.

The office is fueled by caffeine and craft beer. Note: Learn to like one of these things. People will look at you strangely as you gather with the staff at a local brewery and ask for the drink that tastes least like beer. Hard cider, por favor? And, as any social culture, you will be regarded as more open-minded if you talk about the number of coffees you’ve consumed or drink the wine or take a glass of champagne at the wine-and-cheese social. Now – as someone who does not drink much (see my Dear Sober Abbi blog posts), an appropriate swap for alcohol is sparkling water. Sparkling water gives you something to toast with and feels a little fancier than tap water.

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If you are an amateur baker, do not bring a pie to a place where people are literally professional bakers. This tip is definitely specific to working at a women’s lifestyle magazine, but it happened to me so frequently that I thought it important to include. My work husband is a pastry chef, and even he knew better than to broadcast that he’d brought in a dessert for people to sample. It’s intimidating (and, most of it’s in your head!). But, you can always leave an anonymous dessert by the coffee machine for people to sample.

Double-check when you’re sending an email that it is actually going to the right person. I was trying to contact one specific marketing gal, and accidentally CC’d in the whole consumer marketing group with 100+ people. I got about 15 polite emails back saying, “Sorry, try again!”

It is not acceptable to take off your shoes and walk around in bare feet, unless everyone else is gone. Airplane rules apply to the office, if I may be so bold. If you’re choosing to wear high heels to work, you’d better make sure that you can hang out in those babies until 5:30PM, or that you’ve brought a pair of flats to change into in case of emergency. When there are constantly people walking through your office, you cannot walk barefoot to the photocopy machine (and, limping in heels doesn’t look so great, either). This was a tough one for me, because I love to take off my shoes. Keep that habit at home, folks.

Keep mints instead of gum at your desk, so that you are not smacking to the dismay of everyone around you. Mints are an easy and inexpensive way to get rid of that garlic breath after lunch, and won’t bring down your professionalism. Plus, you have the added bonus of being kind and offering mints to colleagues.

If you must trip and fall and heels, be sure to do it in the stairwell instead of in front of everyone coming back from a meeting. They will feel very badly for you, and you will think about how you probably should’ve worn flats today. I wish I could say that this hasn’t happened to me, but, in fact, it’s happened to me at least three times. Once, I was giving a tour to our new intern and completely tripped down a flight of stairs. I think I made her feel more comfortable about being in the office, but, man, that was embarrassing.

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If you notice that your dress is unraveling as you’re getting ready for work, change. Do not wear that dress to work. It will become worse, and, by the end of the day, you will actually have a hole in your clothing. Not exactly flattering, especially in a professional setting. And, if you notice it in the privacy of your own home, it’ll certainly drive you crazy in the office, when you’re hyperaware of impressing your boss.

Do not come to work with chipped nail polish. This will inevitably be the day when you are asked to hand model (really!), and then you will have to go through the rigmarole of taking off your chipped black polish. It would have been easier if you had just taken off the polish like you originally planned before you binge-watched Reign on Netflix.

Bringing someone a Starbucks drink is a great way of helping them warm up to you. No pun intended. You’d be surprised at how a small gesture like picking up coffee for someone can change the tone of their entire day.

If you work in an office full of lots of skinny people, they may not appreciate your Christmas cookie haul as much as some other people would. Save the Christmas cookies for people who will appreciate them, and try bringing something a little healthier to the Christmas party, like fruit or orange juice.

Playing things out loud on your computer is incredibly taboo. It’s the equivalent of playing music or a podcast on full volume without headphones in a public place – not appreciated. Even if you are at just one volume mark on your laptop, assume everyone can hear it (because, some can). And, there will always be colleagues who do not take kindly to playing Christmas music out loud in the afternoons. They are Scrooges, but still wear headphones.

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Rewrite an email if you think that there is even the slightest chance that someone might be offended by it. This is an important one! Either establish yourself as the person that gets right to the point in emails, or be a kind, flowery person that rewrites emails a few times until you get it right. You do not need to be passive aggressive. Don’t try to convey attitude in an email; take a deep breath, and remember that it’s only a job. Kind emails, people.

If you walk into the restroom with three other people, try and do the every other stall thing. Only sociopaths come into a restroom with one other person (and five-plus stalls) and pick the stall next to the original restroom-user. And, if that person is you and I recognize your shoes, I guarantee that I will hold that negative feeling of increased peeing anxiety against you for at least the rest of the workday.

Do not share your political believes in the office. You would think that this one would be a given, but, surprisingly, it is not. Please do not share who you are voting for or why you think so-and-so is a bad candidate. This is our workplace, man. I just want to come in, do my job, and not have to think about why you decided to vote for Donald Trump. This is a definite no-no.

If someone tells you something in confidence, do not share it. To create relationships, be a person of your word. No one wants to find out that you told someone something that you weren’t supposed to, because then you’re not only a bad colleague, you’re a bad friend. And that gets around.

If you have an urge to talk about someone else in your office, keep it to yourself. This is the last point for a reason. In any environment where you’re working with different personalities, corporate structures, and dynamics, things happen that will make you unhappy or frustrated. This is, unfortunately, inevitable. And, often times, there will be certain people at the root of these issues. If you have the chance to talk trash about one of your colleagues, turn it down. It only plants bad seeds. Instead, take every situation with a grain of salt and remind yourself that it’s only a job. Don’t talk badly about your colleagues. We all have better things to spend our time on.

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Good luck!

Where In The World Is Abbi?

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Nearly a month ago, I left my job to travel my way around Europe. I left Birmingham, my home for the past three years, and Groot, my puppy (who is safe and sound in Tennessee, don’t worry). This change was marked by excitement, yes, but also an insurmountable fear. What 25-year-old quits her job to run around the globe, depleting her savings and leaving behind those work benefits whose importance her (and many) parents have instilled in their children since their college years?

This change has been different than I expected it to be. Although I could imagine how it feels to quit your job and pursue a passion (for me, traveling), I have come up against a few emotions that I honestly didn’t expect to have – and it’s been, even in the 20 days I’ve been gone – a character-revealing experience.

I used to say that this trip would be character-changing; this trip would – as I looked to the future – forever change how I saw the world and its people. My dad quickly corrected me, saying that the parts of our character that emerge during new experiences have been there all along – i.e., character-revealing. And, how that’s been true in my life.

A month ago, I thought I’d be desperate to be working again, antsy to be doing something or making sure my bank account wasn’t dipping too drastically or writing everyday to pitch stories. When you’re seeing the Alps in Switzerland, crying over the art in the Louvre, and drinking wine in Spain, friends – the last thing on your mind is the amount of work you should or could be doing. Part of me is anxious that I’m losing those skills that I learned at Southern Living that would make me employable in the coming months, but the part of me that’s so incredibly thrilled to be walking all over these beautiful cities is, without fail, shushing that small, worried voice.

My largest lesson in self so far has, without a doubt, been in the importance of language. I speak English fluently and enough French to get by. We are currently in Munich, Germany, where I’m spoken to in German. A few days ago we (my brother and I) were in Spain, our complexions shocking many native Catalonians when we replied to their slew of quick Spanish words with a “We’re so sorry; we don’t speak Spanish.” Although we were able to get around fairly well in France, I’ve come to the realization that feeling understood, and making sure others feel understood, is fundamentally important to me. A language barrier is frustrating, not just for the simplistic reason of not knowing what someone is saying – it’s frustrating to me that I can’t completely understand the tone, the quirks, and the between-the-lines context of how others are communicating. It feels incredibly rude to say, “I’m so sorry. I don’t speak your language, so could you speak mine?” This is what I’ve learned about myself – I value expression, communication, and the ability to leave someone thoroughly understanding your intentions above all else. For this reason, I may place greater emphasis on hitting the goal of becoming quadralingual by the time I hit 30. Simply, I want to understand how everyone feels.

I’m waiting for the loneliness to kick in. I started my adventure with both my dad and my brother (Ben), my dad leaving when Ben and I took off for Paris and Ben leaving in a few days (after spending a month with me exploring). For my remaining two months, I’ll be, for all intents and purposes, traveling alone. I’ll be meeting some friends along the way, and in some cities, it’ll just be me (I’m coming for you, Amsterdam!). But I’m waiting for the homesickness. Another lesson I’ve learned about myself, though, is that it hasn’t hit me yet. I like exploring and spending every day mapping out how best to see a whole city, but I also like having a space to come home to. For the sake of this trip, it’s my aunt and uncle’s home in Munich (my current space of safety). I haven’t been desperate to be back in the United States, though, except a day or two when I’d really, really like to pet my dog again. Otherwise, I’m doing okay. And, I’m really excited about the places to come.

So, as these things click inside me, I’ll try to share them. I think it’s important to show the other side of all those pretty Instagram photos – the not-so-glamorous, sometimes-uncomfortable parts of traveling abroad and traveling alone. It’s not me catching cabs in Paris; it’s grueling heat and about 50 baguettes (wait, that’s not bad!) and sometimes exhaustion settling in as I take a week to recuperate. I make dinner for my family; I bike to the lake; I sit at the library; I write. I’ll be posting a few city guides along the way too, as I come across places that are just too cool not to share, inspired by many others who have come before me (and, heavily influenced by my new husband, Rick Steves).

To following those urges in your heart that just can’t be put off any longer,

Abbi

Grain-Free “Granola”

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Peeved at myself that it’s taken three rounds of Whole30 for me to play around with granola recipes, but y’all have to try this sweetener-free, gluten-free “granola.” It’s absolutely delicious (and, pairs well with bananas and sunflower seed butter). Dates make it slightly sweet and you can swap in whatever kind of nuts you have laying around; this recipe is based on the ingredients I happened to have in the pantry at the time.

1/2 cup raw cashew pieces
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
3 Tbsp. chia seeds
3 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
5-6 pitted dates
Pinch of salt

Throw all ingredients into a food processor (my favorite kitchen gadget!) and pulse until mixture is your desired consistency. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake at 300˚F for about 20 minutes until granola is golden and fragrant. Let cool before serving.

Whole30 Apple Muffins

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Let me caveat this, first of all, in saying that Whole30 doesn’t want you baking anything. So, #notsponsored. But, these muffins are incredibly moist and protein-packed, so they make an easy breakfast when smeared with some sunflower butter and a great afternoon pick-me-up. If you aren’t into a super-moist muffin (then who are you, am I right?!), you can cut down the oil a little bit – the banana keeps the texture pretty soft. Here’s the recipe:

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Makes about 24 small muffins

2 cups almond flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 c. arrowroot powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. grapeseed (or other Whole30-friendly) oil
1 large egg
2 medium apples, cut into small chunks
4 dates, pitted
1 banana

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray two muffin pans with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, combine first 5 ingredients and whisk until combined. In a food processor, combine oil, egg, dates, and banana. Pulse until dates have been incorporated completely. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, and then add chopped apples. Use a spatula to fold all ingredients together. Spoon into muffin tins, filling them about halfway (I use one large spoonful). Bake for about 20 minutes, or until muffins start to brown on top and are holding together. Cool on a wire rack.

Vegan Peanut Butter Pie

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Having to cook within Whole30 guidelines last month was an ultra-challenge for me – especially when it came to making things without sugar. When we finally finished the 30 days, I was so excited to get a little peanut butter back in my life.

And, of course, dessert. Yes! Dessert! I made this pie for a friend’s birthday, and it turned out surprisingly well. If you’re looking for a DOPE vegan pie, you should definitely try this guy out. CAVEAT: The peanut butter filling doesn’t look that nice with the addition of avocado, but it tastes heavenly.

FOR CRUST:
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup dates
1 Tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of salt

Process in a food processor. If you need more moisture, add in tablespoon or two of your preferred nut butter. Pat crust into a tart or pie pan and chill to harden.

FOR PEANUT BUTTER LAYER:
1/2 cup cashews, soaked in water for about 2 hours
1 avocado
1 cup dates
1/4-1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1/4 cup coconut cream

You may need to play around with adding a little more here and there, because I wasn’t exact with measurements the first go-round (whoops!). Process all ingredients in a food processor. If you need a silkier texture, add a little more almond milk. To make it sweeter, throw in a few more dates. Add peanut butter layer on top of crust, and let chill while you make cream layer.

FOR CREAM LAYER:
1 can coconut cream (just solids)
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
1-2 Tbsp. agave (or honey)

Pulse ingredients in food processor until smooth. Spread on top of peanut butter layer.

FOR CHOCOLATE DRIZZLE:
This isn’t super necessary, but it’s fun and delicious and reminds me of “magic shell” on the pie.
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
2 Tbsp. agave (or honey)
1-2 Tbsp. cocoa

Whisk ingredients together, and drizzle on top of cream layer.

Throw the pie (gently) into the freezer for 30 minutes, and then you’re ready to slice! It’s delicious, honestly. If you’re hoping for a Whole30 version of the pie, swap the agave or honey for dates and the peanut butter for almond butter. Omit chocolate drizzle, or, play around with pulsing in the food processor with dates.

How To Survive Whole30 When You Hate Leftovers & Meal-Prepping Is Your Nightmare

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Well, that title just about says it all.

When I agreed to start Whole30 in January, I didn’t quite think through the logistics of the 30 days. Turns out, it’s not a “wing-it-as-you-go” type of diet. I can’t stand having the same food multiple days in a row, and I have never been a 5-containers-with-grilled-chicken-and-broccoli kinda gal. So, I wanted to create my own little guide to Whole30 that includes some of the recipes, tips, and treats I’ve picked up that you should definitely know about.

You’ll probably need a food processor.

I have never in my life used a food processor as much as I have the past thirty days. I used it to crush nuts + dates, to make mayonnaise, to make ketchup, to make ranch… you name it. Some of these things you could maybe use a blender for, but having a food processor around makes things MUCH easier.

Make some buffalo chicken meatballs.

I made this Buffalo Chicken Meatballs recipe three times, and it’s awesome. Frank’s Red Hot (sauce) is Whole30 approved, and you’ll find an excuse to use it on everything to add some flavor. I don’t even really like hot sauce. You’ll also want to make a batch of Whole30 ranch to dip them in (recipe below). Note: I swapped out the ground chicken in this recipe for ground turkey, and it was great.

Embrace coconut cream.

Okay, okay. So cocoa + dates are banned. This is a rule I think is maybe a little silly…but, if you choose to stick to it, this easy recipe (compliments of Jade Maghoney!) will be a great after-dinner treat that will keep you sane. In fact, I ate it for dinner tonight. Coconut Cream (not to be confused with cream of coconut that you find in the cocktail aisle that definitely has sugar in it) is usually found in the “foreign foods” section of the grocery store and has a whipped cream-like texture. And, it’s not just good for sneaking a little non-dessert into your life. It doesn’t have a super strong flavor, so I actually threw a dollop in with some potatoes and whipped them into creamy mashed potatoes. So good!

Coconut Cream “Tart”

Throw a handful (sorry y’all, I don’t quite measure) of cashews, a handful of almonds, 7 or 8 dates, and a little bit of water into a food processor and blend until it’s pretty fine. I also added some sunflower butter (you could use almond) to hold it together if needed. Press into a glass dish.

Spread coconut cream on top of base, and top with fresh fruit (I used strawberries). Refrigerate until firm – enjoy!

Making your own mayo will make life so much easier.

Turns out, mayonnaise is incredibly easy to make (and, it tastes just as good as the store-bought stuff). The ingredient that isn’t Whole30 approved in mayonnaise, for the most part, is soybean oil (since legumes are ix-nayed). I started with this recipe, and then adapted a little to fit, honestly, whatever ingredients I had remembered to buy at the time. Here’s what you’ll need:

1 egg
Dijon mustard (or mustard powder)
Half a lemon
Salt
About 1 1/4 cups of sunflower, avocado, or extra-light oil

So, a couple tricks here.
1 – Make sure to leave your egg on the counter so that it comes to room-temperature before you try to whip it into mayo. I don’t know the science behind this, but it was key to most of the mayo recipes I tried.
2 – No matter how much you like extra virgin olive oil (and, I do!) it DOES NOT taste good as a base for mayo. Your mayo will be bitter and you’ll have to throw it all in the trash. I used extra-light-tasting olive oil and sunflower oil, and both turned out great.
3 – To your food processor, add the egg, Dijon, salt, and about 1/4 cup of oil. Then, blend until it starts to look creamy. Using the removable part of your food processor (or, if you have a little one like me, the divot where you can pour things), slowly add the remaining oil while the food processor is still running. It should take 2 or 3 minutes for you to add it all. Squeeze in your lemon, and blend until it’s at the consistency you’d like.

I added this mayonnaise to my ranch (getting there, I know), egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad, and my chicken meatballs, which made for easy lunches that didn’t feel like leftovers. It’s really nice to just have some on hand.

And, why deprive yourself of ranch?

Once you’ve got mayonnaise down, you have to try this ranch. Ranch on Whole30? What? Yes, friends. Eat ranch. I adapted my version from this recipe. I used 1 tsp. of each of these spices, and combined them in a Ziploc bag to have on-hand: salt, parsley, dill, chives, onion powder, dehydrated onion flakes, garlic powder, and pepper.

Mix a tablespoon of the dry ranch mix with 1 cup of your mayonnaise, 1/3 cup of unsweetened almond milk, and a squeeze of lemon (about 1 tablespoon).

Turns out that other condiments are also kinda easy to make.

Since you can now have white potatoes on Whole30 (cheers!) you should also have some ketchup to dip them taters in. Here’s the combo – you’ll have to just play around with the ratios because, unfortunately as I mentioned previously, I’m terrible at measuring:

Tomato paste
8-9 pitted dates
Water
Apple cider vinegar
Fresh lemon juice
Salt
Garlic powder
Onion powder

You can also make a killer tomato sauce that works with spaghetti squash, zucchini, ground turkey, eggplant… go for it. You only need a few ingredients, and a handful of spices from the cupboard:

Olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 large can (28 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes
Basil, oregano, thyme
Salt

Start by sautéing the garlic in the oil, and then adding the rest of the ingredients into a pot. Crush the tomatoes with a fork or potato masher. Cook the sauce on low until combined.

Speaking of spaghetti squash…

Take it up. It’s not hard at all – cut a spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds, drizzle it with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast on 350˚ for about 30-40 minutes, face up, until you can shred all the flesh (ew, Abigail, wording!) with a fork. I cook it on Sunday, and then keep it in the fridge as an easy dinner if I don’t have time to cook. Mix with a little of that homemade pasta sauce and some ground turkey, and you’ve got spaghetti [squash] with meat sauce.

Cook a bunch on Saturday and Sunday.

Okay, so here’s where you can combat the meal prep thing that I hate. The idea of having matching containers of meat and vegetables to be heated day after day gives me heartburn, genuinely. The best way to combat this while also not finding yourself eating almonds for dinner during the week is to make a list of foods you’d like to eat, and then making a handful of dishes to keep in the fridge. Not technically leftovers because you haven’t eaten them yet – and not the same thing over and over. Last week, this is what I prepped on Sunday:

Shakshuka (sans feta, I know – but still SO comforting)
Egg salad
Chicken Salad
Spaghetti Squash
Taco Soup
Chicken Florentine Soup
Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
Roasted veggies
Roasted sweet potatoes
Guacamole

Not bad for options, eh?

You can eat bacon!

Really! The Whole30 cookbook says to “read the labels” when it comes to bacon, and that you’ll probably need to order some specialty bacon online or go to your local butcher for fresh bacon to find something that qualifies, but I’ve got the secret for you – most “low-sodium” bacons are sugar-free! So, you likely can have the grocery store bacon you’re passing by anyway. The Publix Hickory Smoked Low-Sodium bacon is approved, as is the Smithfield Low-Sodium Bacon. Pick it up on BOGO! Eat bacon! This morning, I had eggs, bacon, hash browns, and a pear for breakfast. Whole30 doesn’t have to be gross.

Roast some nuts.

I’ve roasted nuts every weekend now. The great thing about Whole30 is that you don’t have to be hungry, because you’re not counting calories. So, nuts are a great snack if you need a little afternoon fuel. If you’re not into the plain ol’ nut thing, like I’m not, then I want to encourage you to think outside salted almonds. This is one of my favorite combinations:

Mix pecans with a little olive oil, hot sauce, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and onion flakes. Bake for about 12 minutes on 350˚, until your pecans are fragrant. This tastes like Chex Mix seasoning! So good!

I’ve also tried sunflower oil + cinnamon, sunflower oil + cinnamon, and olive oil + rosemary. Use whatever spices you have, and dress up those roasted nuts.

Just do it!

Honestly – the most common question people have asked me about Whole30 is whether or not it’s hard. It isn’t easy, I will say, and the first few days, I had a constant sugar-withdrawal headache. But, come day 8 or 9, my body felt great. Now, on Day 28, I’m planning on carrying over a lot of these Whole30 tricks into my lifestyle. You DO have time to cook. You CAN make dinners work in 30 minutes without prepackaged foods. And, your body WILL feel so much better when you fill it with whole foods. Promise! Maybe I won’t be making my own ketchup, but I’ll definitely be thinking twice when it comes to mimosas (or, shoveling donuts) on the weekend. It’s totally worth it.

You can do it!

Bake with Abbi

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Hi friends!

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged, but you can check out all the fun videos, articles, and recipes I’ve been trying out on The Daily South and SouthernLiving.com.

In my not-so-spare time, I’ve decided to get a little deeper into one of my favorite passions –baking. If you’ve ever spent a weekend with me, you know that I like to go overboard in the kitchen. Case in point: last weekend, I made homemade buttermilk biscuits, lemon bars, two loaves of Citrus Pull-Apart Bread, a loaf of banana bread, and muffins all in one day. So, I won’t bake during the week, but I’ll get you a mean chess pie on the weekend. And, I need to share, because I can’t eat four loaves of bread in one day.

I love working with different recipes to see how the dough is made, how kneading makes a huge difference, and how yeast rises. My recent excitement over baking can 70% be attributed to my binge-watching of the last three seasons of Great British Baking Show. (Seriously, if you haven’t seen in – please go watch.)

All this to say – I want to get further into baking and really celebrate how cool it is that we can apply heat to ingredients and have them puff up into golden, fluffy shapes. So, I’d love for you to join me. I’ve created a new @bakewithabbi Instagram account, and I’m going to try to get better about writing some reviews on my blog on the recipes I’m trying.

And, if you’ve got a hankering for some baked goods (within a reasonable distance, ha!) – just shoot me a message and I’ll see if my next baking experiment can end up in your hands. 🙂

Happy spring!

Abbi