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21-Day Challenge

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Image courtesy of

ParentingAces is going to take a little detour over the next 3 weeks to report on a nutrition “challenge” that I’m doing alongside my husband, Matthew, and daughter, Emma.

Given this week’s podcast with Michael Farrington on nutrition for junior players, I thought I would expand on that theme and share with y’all some recipes and menu ideas that you can adapt to suit your family’s needs. Of course, I will still be posting info on the ParentingAces Facebook and Twitter pages that more directly relates to junior and college tennis, so no worries there.  🙂

At the beginning of January, Emma returned to Atlanta for a 3-month stint, testing the local acting waters. She has been living in the Los Angeles area since leaving for college back in 2007. For those of you familiar with the film/tv industry, you know how tough it is for a young actress to break into the business. Emma has definitely felt the struggle, supporting her acting passion by holding various other jobs such as math tutor, hotel restaurant hostess, preschool assistant, and birthday party princess-for-hire. Anyway, the industry seems to be booming here in Atlanta, and several people have encouraged her to give it a shot, especially since she has a free place to live! So, that whole empty nest thing is on hiatus for now, thank goodness!

Earlier this week, Emma proposed that the three of us take a clean eating challenge, something she has done through Chef V (who, sadly, doesn’t ship her products to Atlanta) many times herself. I should mention that in addition to having a passion for acting, Emma also has a passion for cooking and has even written, produced, and starred in her own web-based cooking show, Queen of the Kitchen (click here to see it).

Our current eating challenge completely eliminates all processed foods, dairy, sugar, gluten, caffeine, and alcohol. Emma has conceded to let us have our morning coffee, though – smart young woman! While we can eat most fruits and vegetables, some are a no-go such as tomatoes, bananas, potatoes, strawberries, and all nightshades (peppers, eggplant, etc.). Chicken, lamb, and fish are in; pork, beef, and shellfish are out. In addition to the specific menu items listed each day, we can also add snacks as desired as long as they’re on the “approved foods” list. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is a key ingredient to the challenge as well. Remember: this is only for 21 days. I want to go on record as saying that I do not support any diet that permanently eliminates anything. I’m a big fan of moderation and will likely return to my normal way of eating once our three weeks are up.

I was an easy sell on the idea. My husband? Not so much. But, he eventually consented, and today is Day 1 for all of us. Emma and I kicked it off with our first Qi Gong class which was an experience in and of itself!

Emma and I spent yesterday planning a weekly menu, cleaning out the fridge and pantry, shopping for ingredients, and blending up several days’ worth of “green juice” (which is how we’ll start each day). Clean eating definitely takes a lot of planning and preparation, and it’s not an inexpensive way to feed your family. It will be interesting to compare our food costs over the next 3 weeks to our normal eating expenses. Now that we’ve moved in town, we do enjoy sampling all the local restaurants! But, cost aside, I do think the extra effort will be worth it when we start feeling the positive effects of eating clean.

As my family goes through the Challenge, I’ll post our daily menu along with recipe links and any tips to make the Challenge a bit more manageable. While I’ll put some photos in my daily pieces, Emma will have most of the pictures on her Queen of the Kitchen Instagram (linked at the bottom of this page). Cheers!

Day 1 Menu

Pre-Breakfast: 8-12 ounces of water plus 8-12 ounces of Green Juice

Breakfast: Smoothie (for my husband: gluten-free toast spread with fresh almond butter & sliced apple)

Mid-morning snack: Jicama sticks (for my husband: mix of whole raw almonds and goji berries)

Pre-Lunch: 4-6 ounces of Green Juice

Lunch: Antioxidant Love Salad (for my husband: leftover baked lemon-garlic salmon on mixed salad greens, celery with almond butter)

Afternoon snack: Celery with almond butter

Pre-Dinner: 4-6 ounces of Green Juice

Dinner: Grilled Chicken Pesto Quinoa with Roasted Cauliflower



Green Juice (adapted from Chef V’s description)

Green kale, black kale, collard greens, dandelion greens, green chard, curly parsley, green leaf lettuce, Honey Crisp apple (cored), fresh ginger root (peeled) – all organic if available!

Add one leaf of each green plus a small handful of parsley, the apple, and a 2-inch piece of ginger to the blender. Add enough filtered water to blend to your desired consistency. Put in a bottle or container and keep refrigerated. Note: You can strain before drinking if you prefer. Note 2: Not quite as good as Chef V’s juice but it’ll do if you’re outside her shipping area.

Emma’s Breakfast Smoothie

6-10 ounces unsweetened almond milk (depending how liquidy you want your smoothie)
1/2 teaspoon chia seeds
1-2 handfulls fresh spinach
1 scoop or 1/2 packet protein powder
1/2 teaspoon flax powder
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil
3/4 cup frozen mango
1/4 cup frozen raspberries
1/3 cup frozen wild blueberries

Soak chia seeds in 4 ounces of almond milk overnight. This is best done in the blender to save dishes and the hassle of transferring the soaked seeds. In the morning, add protein powder, flax powder, remaining almond milk, and spinach to the blender, and blend. Once all that is combined, add the coconut oil (make sure it’s in liquid form, otherwise it won’t distribute properly), and blend again. Next, add the frozen fruit, and blend until it’s all combined. If you like your smoothie thicker, you may need to open it at some point and use a rubber or wood spatula to move everything around so it blends better. Feel free to add almond milk as you go to change the consistency as well.

Chef V’s Antioxidant Love Salad (serves 2)

1 large organic red chard leaf, washed & chopped
1 cup organic red leaf lettuce, washed and chopped
1 tbsp. cold pressed olive oil
1 tbsp. organic balsamic vinegar
1 small raw organic beet, washed, skinned & diced
½ cup organic raspberries
¼ cup pomegranate seeds
¼ cup chopped raw walnuts

Combine olive oil and vinegar with chard and red leaf lettuce. Divide lettuce on two separate plates. Distribute half the beets, raspberries, pomegranate seeds and chopped walnuts to each salad. Bon Appétit!

Chef V’s Grilled Chicken Pesto Pasta (serves 2)

1 lb. organic chicken breast (or use veggies for vegan!)
2 cups brown rice or quinoa pasta
½ cup Chef V Easy RAW Pesto (see easy pesto below)

Lightly salt and pepper the organic chicken. Grill on a greased grill or grill pan for 3- 5 minutes on each side. Set chicken aside and bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions. Use a cheese-less pesto sauce or use my Easy RAW Pesto recipe below to mix pesto in with drained pasta and mix in chicken. Bon Appétit!

Roasted Cauliflower

2 heads cauliflower washed & broken into flowerettes
olive oil, sea salt, ground pepper to taste

Toss cauliflower with olive oil, salt & pepper. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Roast in a 425 degree oven until caramelized and fork tender.

Helpful Links
Click here for Chef V’s website
Click here for the Queen of the Kitchen website
Click here for a Google list of Green Juice recipes

Workout of the Day
Qi Gong at Decatur Healing Arts
Barre-Stretch Express at IB Yoga-Barre

Queen of the Kitchen Show Instagram Feed
[instashow source=”@queenofthekitchenshow”]


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