There is a long list of people I would love to have dinner with, and Carlene Thomas of Healthfully Ever After is certainly one of them! Not only do she and her husband, Chris, seem super sweet and down-to-earth, she is also passionate about helping brides achieve healthy lifestyles that last long after their wedding days. We love the idea of brides having such a supportive, inspiring, and uplifting presence in their lives during their engagements, and since that’s exactly what we aim to be as well, it’s safe to say that Carlene is an SW kindred spirit. Sit a spell with her at this beautiful dinner party she and Chris threw to introduce us to some of their favorite dishes!
By day: Carlene is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who also runs her own private practice and consulting company, Healthfully Ever After, which focuses on helping brides become healthier and happier. Chris is a project manager for a design build company that makes custom solar homes in the DC area and creates sustainable infrastructure in developing countries.
How they met: Let’s set the scene. You’re awkward and in fourth grade in a school of 100 kids. Chris was the new kid, and as he tells the story, his vocal performance as Pappa Mozart in the school play, Mice and Mozart, must have really sealed the deal. As fate would have it, Chris moved to a different part of Virginia in middle school and my family ended up moving to that same place. Fast forward to middle school and we became best friends. And after lots of persistence on Chris’ part, he eventually wore me down (kidding!) and we started dating in high school.
Their wedding: We had an October wedding at the Thomas Birkby House in Leesburg, Virginia. It was brisk, but warm, with no humidity (a big factor for all Southern girls and their hair!). Probably one of my favorite wedding details was my bouquet, which has become sort of everything my business stands for in one image. Holly Chapple graciously met my insane request for a total foodie bouquet. She called me the night before like “Are you all in?” and I just said “ I trust you!” She put in okra, green beans, herbs, carrots, brussels sprouts and more. Chris’ boutonniere had a baby carrot. She’s the best.
Meal planning: I almost always do the meal planning. I like to use overlapping ingredients throughout the week, and with our CSA, which runs from May to October, we don’t really have a say in what ends up in our kitchen. For us, it’s all about being flexible. Additionally, whatever I make often ends up on my blog, so I need time to plan during the day, photograph the food, and then eat it later! However, you should see Chris whip up a meal–he goes all out.
The cooking: I do most of the cooking, but Chris is the total sauce and dressing master. He’s also amazing at flavor pairings. Cooking is actually kind of my zen time and I enjoy it. It’s not a chore at all!
Favorite meal-related memory: We love to walk to the farmer’s market down the street, come back with some goodies, and have an outdoor lunch. When you have good ingredients, that’s all you need. We grab artisanal bread, cheese, produce, and bacon (says the dietitian). We put it all on a big platter with a salad and sit outside and nibble. It works on any scale, from two people to ten. Just add wine or cocktails!
Top ten favorite recipes:
1. Lentil burgers: These lentil burgers are “meaty” enough for the carnivore and a good meat alternative for the veggie lover!
2. Vegan chili made with fig jam: This easy, one-container meal (minus the salad) is our go-to for winter.
3. Schaum tortes: Our go-to celebratory dessert. I’ll take these over cake any day. They’re always great in summer with fresh berries, although they can sometimes be hard to make if it’s humid outside.
4. Fish sticks: This recipe has significantly less sodium and fat than your typical fish stick. And significantly more yum.
5. Whole wheat biscuits: Chris makes insanely good biscuits that we eat with soft, runny eggs and local bacon. We’ll have to do a blog post about them soon!
6. Salmon hash: For a luxurious brunch, we’d rather make salmon hash at home rather than battle the crowds out and about.
7. Lemon meringue pie: Some Grandmas make cookies, but Grandma Helble makes lemon meringue pie when we visit! It’s a heavenly, tart cloud.
8. Salmon with anything: On any given day, if you poke your head into my fridge or freezer, there are likely perfectly portioned filets ready for a quick cook. I usually swing by Costco and grab a half fish to portion/freeze and use for a few weeks.
9. Grandma’s tuna patties: Chris and I are obsessed with these tuna patties that my Grandma makes–they really taste more like a rich crab cake than a typical tuna burger.
10. Rainbow veggie slaw: We love this as a vinegar kick for everything from chicken to lentil burgers.