Keeping up with the Wallaces!

These last few weeks have been crazy busy. My husband and I started the Whole 30 challenge on Monday, October 10th. Somehow, he finished way earlier than I did…

I’m currently on day 9, and I’m honestly surprised that it actually hasn’t been that hard. I do miss bread (a LOT), but because you can eat so many fruits and veggies, I haven’t really felt super hungry or deprived, which is a really good thing when it comes to diets.

However, I do feel that my cooking game has been knocked off kilter since I started this challenge. There are only so many ways to cook chicken and fresh veggies… I have realized that almost ALL my recipes use some kind of forbidden food like flour, canned soup, or sugar. I know Jeff is ready for me to be doing something in the kitchen besides roasting chicken and I’m trying to come up with some creative ways to cook healthy meals that even the non-dieter in the house will enjoy.

Here are some of the meals I have been relying on to get through this challenge so far:

Roasted chicken breast with green beans – I love bone-in chicken for roasting. Wash the chicken breasts and place on a greased cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and parsley flakes. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the chicken (these breasts were HUGE, so I had to cook mine for an hour).

Most of the time, my breakfast and lunch look like this. I try to stick to something easy to pack, so I take Sundays to prep all my veggies so I can just toss some in a bowl at night before bed and they’re ready to go in the morning. I also include some slices of deli turkey for protein.

I just found out about these AMAZING little snack bars and they are a game changer! I was really missing my granola bar for breakfast every morning, and these little bars satisfy that craving without any of the bad for you ingredients that are in my typical bar.

Jeff has been working hard on the grill since we started this challenge. He grilled burgers for us a couple times (I ate mine without a bun), and last week I found these awesome steaks on sale at Publix and couldn’t pass them up.

Jeff said he has eaten more fruits and veggies in the last week than he has all year leading up to this challenge. I think he’s sick of broccoli…haha.

Besides the Whole 30, I’ve been super busy at school. We’ve just started a new nine-weeks. My 11th grade students are about to start reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. To kick off the unit, I am hosting a Gatsby Soirée in my classroom next Friday featuring all things inspired by the 1920s. There will be 1920s food, 1920s music, 1920s fashion, and 1920s dancing. I am still researching the food that I’m going to make for my students, and I can’t wait to share the recipes I find with you guys next week.

On Sunday, we gained a new member of the family!  Meet Hemingway, our new kitten!

He is a feisty little guy who loves jumping all over the couch, hiding under the furniture, and attacking the cords on our blinds. George is NOT happy at all about this new addition, but we read that it is actually pretty normal for an older cat to resist adding a new cat to the family at first and we’re hoping he will come around. Does anyone have any suggestions for making the transition smoother? George has been extremely ticked off at us since we brought Hemingway home and has decided that he’s going to just camp out in the basement and ignore all of us. Hopefully he’ll get over it soon.


Whole 30

Starting tomorrow, Jeff and I are going to be following the Whole 30 clean eating program for the next 30 days. I heard about this program from some other bloggers on Instagram, and lots of them have had great success using this program to improve their health. When I checked out the Whole 30 website, the program actually sounded doable, so Jeff and I decided to give it a shot.

I’m going to be sharing our experiences as we follow the program, and I’ll share recipes that are Whole 30 approved. We’re hoping this program will kind of “reset” us, help establish some healthy habits, and curb our cravings for carbs and sweets.

I read tons of things on the Whole 30 website this weekend and used their free printable shopping list to go to the grocery store this afternoon.

I had a budget of $100, and I only went over that by about $10, so I was pretty pleased (my biggest concern for this challenge was the expense of buying all clean foods). Here’s what I got for our first week of the challenge (I already had staples like chicken breasts and broccoli in my freezer):

  • Apples (golden delicious, Granny Smith, gala, and red delicious)
  • Bananas
  • Kiwi
  • Pineapple
  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Strawberries
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Onions (white and red)
  • Green onion
  • Bell pepper
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Avocado
  • Russet potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Red potatoes
  • Walnuts
  • Eggs
  • Ground chuck
  • Lean stew beef

I’m totally horrible at diets, so I am currently cleaning out my kitchen of any foods that are not allowed (sugars, breads, processed food, soda). Am I the only one who eats those foods like crazy the day before something like this? I think I’ve had three handfuls of chocolate chips while I’ve been going through the fridge.

I’m doing meal planning tonight. I started by making a batch of Whole 30 approved taco seasoning from Emily Eats Real Food’s blog (click the link for the recipe).

I cooked a large batch of meat for tacos tonight and to use for taco salads for a few meals this week. This taco seasoning is SO good!

I also spent some time prepping my fruits and veggies for the week so I can cut down on meal prep time when it’s time to cook.

So far, the thing that has me the most baffled is what to eat for breakfast. This is easy for Jeff, because he loves eggs. I don’t. I normally eat cereal or oatmeal for breakfast or grab a granola bar on my way out the door. Since all of those foods are no-nos, I’m really not sure what to eat. I’m going to try a fruit salad and some walnuts tomorrow and see if that’s filling enough. If not, I’ll have to figure out how to get some protein in there.

For lunch tomorrow, I made a salad with lettuce, spinach, avocado, red onion, bell pepper, and pineapple. I’m going to heat up some taco meat and toss that on top.

I’m planning to grill some chicken and make roasted veggies for dinner tomorrow night, and I’ll probably make a lot of extra so I can have leftovers for lunch throughout the week.

Fun at the Beach!

We headed to the beach on Thursday night for a quick little family vacation. Here are some pictures of our adventures!

The view from our balcony on Friday morning

Seashell hunting at Mexico Beach

Playing mini-golf (my favorite!)

His hole-in-one pose

My hole-in-one pic

Fireworks at Pier Park on Friday night

Gorgeous day on Saturday

Zoo adventures (I actually petted a snake, y’all! I’m sooooo afraid of snakes!)

Sunset on Saturday

Being the Best 

I have two major priorities in my life right now:

  1. To be the best wife I can be
  2. To be the best teacher I can be

Sometimes, these two seem to work against one another. When I need to bring papers home to grade, I feel guilty for not spending quality time with my husband. I honestly usually end up bringing papers home and then deciding that cooking and cleaning and spending time with Jeff is more important, so the papers just sit in their little basket in the back seat of my car and I fall more and more behind at work. 

Earlier this week, I had to give myself a major attitude adjustment. I was struggling at work, all the bills were due at the same time, the laundry was piling up, the fridge was empty, and I just felt like there was no way I could do everything that I felt needed to be done. I was cranky and moody and, of course, I ranted and complained to my husband. 

I could hear how negative and annoying I sounded, but for some reason, I couldn’t stop myself from venting and I ended up making myself all upset over things that are really totally insignificant in the long run.

On Monday, Jeff and I went for a walk/run together. While I was walking, I realized that a big part of my problem was that I was trying to be someone else’s version of “best.”

I’ll feel like I’m doing a good job at work, and then I’ll see another teacher on Instagram who has a perfectly organized classroom and is doing a super creative lesson and who has students who are actively engaged at all times and love learning. While I enjoy hearing success stories from other teachers, I have a bad habit of turning their best day into a ruler by which I measure my bad days. On those days when things don’t go well, I listen to coworkers or look on social media and I beat myself up. I compare myself to everyone else and I wonder why I can’t be the best.

I do the same thing when it comes to deciding how I’m doing as a wife. I’ll think that I’m doing a pretty good job: my husband is happy, the house is pretty clean most of the time, the cat’s still alive, I remember to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer before they sour. Then I’ll see or hear about a wife who buys her husband a truck for his birthday, or somebody will tell me they saved $100 on groceries, or a woman will run a marathon or start doing CrossFit. When I see friends who can do all those things, I start to question how well I’m actually doing. I get bitter and resentful towards those friends and sometimes even towards my husband because I assign thoughts to him that he doesn’t even have. I’ll see another woman who seems to have it all together and think, “I bet he wishes I looked like that,” or “I bet he thinks I should be more careful with our money.” I turn everything into a competition – one where I’m always on the losing end.

The fact is, I shouldn’t be worried about being THE best. I should just be trying to be MY best. 

If I’m the best teacher I can be, then it doesn’t matter what anybody else is doing in their classrooms. If I’m putting time and effort into my relationship and trying to be the best wife I can be and my husband is happy, then that’s all that matters.

This week has been long and hard, but today I am thankful that I get to start fresh every morning. I’m thankful that I have a husband who listens when I need to vent and who doesn’t judge me for my shortcomings. I’m thankful that I have the ability to be MY best every day, and that on the days when I’m not my best, I’m still loved. 

Mamaw Hopper’s Okra

When I was about 5 or 6, I would spend the summers at my Mamaw Hopper and DeDad’s house (my dad’s parents). I would spend my days following DeDad around, watching PBS, taking Mamaw’s ear off, and waiting for my uncle to get off work at 3:00 because he always had something fun to do before my mom came to pick me up on her way home from work. 

DeDad always had a garden, so in the summer Mamaw Hopper would cook vegetables from his garden and cornbread for lunch almost every day. I wasn’t allowed to help her cook because she had one of those old, gold-colored gas stoves and it would get really hot when she turned the oven on. She was always afraid I would get burned, so she would corral me by putting me on a a barstool in the corner of the kitchen away from the stove so I could talk while she worked. She made cornbread every day, and there was usually a huge spread of vegetables to choose from for lunch. DeDad grew peas, tomatoes, corn, pepper, squash, and my favorite: okra. Whenever he would come in with a 5 gallon bucket of okra in the morning, I would be so excited because that meant Mamaw was going to cook fried okra.

Mamaw and me in 1993

I loved her fried okra, and after Mamaw Hopper passed away when I was 9, my mother and I spent a few years trying to figure out exactly what she did that made it so good. Of course, that recipe wasn’t written down anywhere, so we had to go from memory. We would make a batch, taste it, and it would never be the same. We racked our brains trying to figure out what she could have done that we were forgetting.

Now, when Mamaw made fried okra, she didn’t deep fry it. She actually didn’t fry it at all. She would put a pan in the oven and get it really hot, put a little oil in the bottom of the pan, and then add the okra and bake it in the oven. I remember watching from my stool in the corner as she would take it out every 15 minutes to stir it around so it cooked evenly. It always smelled so good, and I would ask every time if it was ready yet. My mom and I were doing the exact same thing, but it just wasn’t turning out right. What we made was good, but it just wasn’t as good as Mamaw’s.

Finally, one day when we were at the grocery store, my mom reached for a bag of white cornmeal, which is what she always bought. Out of the blue, I mentioned that Mamaw used to always buy yellow cornmeal and asked why we never used the yellow kind. My mom said that she had always bought the white because thats what her mom bought, but I wanted to try the yellow, so that’s what we got.

Later, we decided to make okra. We had pretty much given up on ever figuring out what Mamaw’s exact recipe was, but our copycat was pretty good, so we made it just like always. Heat the pan, put a tiny bit of oil in the pan, pour in the frozen okra, sprinkle on some cornmeal, garlic salt, and seasoned salt, and bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Guess what! The yellow corn meal made a HUGE difference! It tasted exactly like Mamaw’s okra! I have had people tell me that this doesn’t make sense, because white and yellow cornmeal taste the same, but they’re wrong. The yellow cornmeal made all the difference, and my mom and I were both so happy to finally be able to make okra for my dad that tastes just like his mom’s.

So here’s what you need for Mamaw Hopper’s Okra:

1 lb bag of frozen okra

Yellow corn meal 

Lowry’s garlic salt

Lowry’s seasoned salt

Oil or cooking spray 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the pan in the oven while it’s preheating so the pan gets hot (this keeps the okra from sticking to the pan).

Once the pan is hot, spray with a liberal amount of cooking spray or pour in about a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Spread the okra out into an even layer in the pan. Sprinkle about 1/8 a cup of yellow cornmeal over the okra. Season with garlic and seasoned salt to taste (I like my okra pretty salty, so I go pretty heavy with this part). Stir the okra so it’s all coated with the meal and seasoning. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour, taking out to stir every 15 minutes.

My dad actually likes his okra a little bit more crispy, so sometimes I stick it back in the oven for an extra 15 minutes for him. I love that the breeding is light so you can really taste the okra. This is a favorite side dish in our house, and I love that I think of my Mamaw every time I make it.

It’s fall, y’all!

It is officially October and I have officially already killed a pot of mums. It’s a breezy 79 degrees outside, pine straw is blowing around everywhere, and the leaves are starting to change colors. Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. I love the weather, the colors, the scents, and the fashion that come along with this time of year.

I always like to reflect and set some goals for the upcoming month. This month, my goals are pretty simple:

  1. I want to get and STAY caught up on grading papers at work
  2. I want to cook and eat healthier meals
  3. I want to exercise at least 5 days a week
  4. I want to save a much money as possible on groceries and household items
  5. I want to read at least one novel for fun (not work related)

These goals seem simple, but they are actually going to be super hard for me. I am constantly staring down a stack of 200-300 papers or more that need my attention. Cooking and eating healthier meals isn’t really that hard, but it can be expensive, which contradicts with my goal of saving money on groceries this month. Exercise is something that I am always glad I did, but it takes a ton of motivation to get me out there. I need to be way more self-motivated (and that’s HARD!). As far as the reading goal – that’s one that I have always had since I started teaching, and I have never been able to get it done while I’ve been teaching. It may seem silly, but I miss reading for fun (without a red pen or highlighter in my hand), and I think I will be so much better at fostering a love for reading in my students if I am well-read.

I know I’ve been absent on the blog this week. It’s the end of the first 9 weeks at school and I have been trying to catch up grading essays. Here’s what’s been happening at the Wallace house:

Last weekend, we went to Lowe’s (our favorite place to shop together) and bought some beautiful fall colored pots and flowers.

I found this super cute rug at Target for $12 and just couldn’t pass it up.

Jeff took me to Montgomery last Sunday to see Agatha Christie’s famous play, The Mousetrap. We had so much fun and the play was awesome! It’s a murder mystery and it kept us guessing until the very end.

Hobby Lobby had a huge fall sale (which is always a dangerous thing for me) and I found this adorable owl welcome sign. I wired it into a grapevine wreath with some fall ribbon for the back door (and remembered how bad I am at tying pretty bows).

I found a recipe for apple pops on Facebook and made some as an after dinner treat for Jeff and myself one night. They were super easy, cute, and tasty, but I would recommend only making as many as you’re planning to eat that night, because they weren’t very good the next day (the chocolate kept falling off). Basically, you just slice some apples, stick a popsicle stick in each slice, and dip them in melted chocolate. Then you top them with candy, nuts, and melted white chocolate and caramel drizzles. They would be great for a party!

We had dinner with friends at River, a new restaurant on Jack Warner in Tuscaloosa, last night. It is easily our new favorite restaurant! The atmosphere is awesome. They are located right on the river and since it was such a beautiful night last night, they had the doors open to connect the indoor dining room to the large deck. The food is all fresh. They partnered with local farmers and use fresh farm eggs and vegetables in all their dishes. We got the fried okra, fried oysters, and smoked catfish dip for appetizers. They were all equally good. The smoked catfish dip was really unique. I’ve never had anything like it before, but it was so good! Even the chips they served it with were smoked. It smelled like a campfire and tasted sooooo good! I’m going to try to create a copycat recipe soon.

Jeff got their catfish, and I got the crispy chicken. My dish was served with buttermilk mashed potatoes and they were the best mashed potatoes I have ever eaten. 

We will definitely be going back! I’ve heard they have an awesome brunch menu on the weekends, so we may go check that out soon. 

Today, we’re headed to an Alabama football party, so I made some sausage balls, sausage and cream cheese rolls, and apple nachos. Here are the recipes:

Sausage Balls

1/2 lb ground sausage

1/2 package cream cheese

1/2 cup baking mix (like Bisquick)

1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used Pepper Jack today because that’s what I had on hand, but I normally use Cheddar. Jeff loved the Pepper Jack because it made them more spicy.)

Lowry’s Garlic Salt and Seasoned Salt

On medium-high heat, brown the sausage. Season with a sprinkle of garlic salt and seasoned salt. Once sausage is done, remove from heat and stir together with cream cheese. Add baking mix and cheese and mix well. Use a small scoop to place mixture in a mini-muffin pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes.

Sausage and Cream Cheese Rolls

1/2 lb ground sausage

1/2 package cream cheese

1 tube crescent rolls

Lowry’s Garlic Salt and Seasoned Salt

On medium-high heat, brown the sausage. Season with a sprinkle of garlic salt and seasoned salt. Once sausage is done, remove from heat and stir together with cream cheese.

Roll out 1/2 of the cresent roll dough into a flat rectangle of dough. Spread sausage and cream cheese mixture over the dough and roll into a log. Cut the log into 8 slices and place on a cookie sheet. Repeat with the second half of the dough. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until the rolls look golden brown.

Apple Nachos

2 Granny Smith apples

1 Gala apple


White Chocolate



Cut the apples in half and slice, removing the core and seeds. Place in an even layer on a platter. Melt caramel, chocolate, and white chocolate. Drizzle the melted caramel, chocolate, and white chocolate over the apples. Sprinkle walnut pieces on top. You could also add chopped candy bars, M&Ms, or pretzel pieces.

I hope you enjoy these game day treats! Happy fall, y’all!




Chicken Pot Pie

This is the ultimate comfort food recipe. When Jeff and I were dating, he asked me if I could make him a chicken pot pie. I flipped my hair and said, “of course!” even though I had never made one in my life. I was certain that it couldn’t really be that hard. I tried a few different recipes before I settled on this super easy creation.

Tonight, I added a little extra to my normal recipe by adding bacon to the pie. It’s totally optional, but who wouldn’t want bacon in their chicken pie???

Here’s what you need for my super easy Bacon Chicken Pot Pie:

2 chicken breasts

4 slices of bacon

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can chicken broth

Small bag mixed vegetables (carrots, corn, and peas)

2 refrigerated pie crusts

Salt and pepper to taste

Start by boiling the chicken breasts. When they are done, shred and set aside.

Dice the bacon into small pieces. Spray a medium sized pot (I love my enamel coated cast iron Dutch oven for this!) with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Cook the bacon until done. 

When the bacon is done, remove and drain on a paper towel. Turn the heat down to low. Deglaze the pot with a splash of chicken broth. Add the cream of chicken soup and about half the can of chicken broth. Stir until well mixed. Stir in the frozen mixed vegetables. Cover and let cook on low for about 10 minutes. 

Next, add the shredded chicken and bacon to the mixture. 

Stir until mixed well. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Cover this mixture and remove from heat.

Roll out one pre-made pie crust into the bottom of a pie pan. 

Poke the crust with a fork to allow it to vent. Pour the chicken mixture into the bottom crust. 

Roll out the second pie crust and place on top of the pie. Use a fork to press the edges together. 

Cut vent slits in the top of the pie. I usually cut three large ones in the middle and a few tiny ones around the edges. 

You can bake it just like this, OR if you want a really pretty, crispy crust, coat the top of the pie with an egg wash (one egg and some water whisked together and brushed onto the dough). This will give you a beautiful, golden brown crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes. Watch the crust carefully. You may need to cover the edges of the crust with foil to prevent them from burning (the edges cook faster than the rest of the pie). 

Allow the pie about 10 minutes to rest/cool before serving.

Jeff has been raving about this pie all night. He said it is my best one ever. I think the bacon is definitely here to stay. 

If you want a happy tummy and a happy husband, go make this. You won’t regret it.