The Whole30 (or 45)

We did it! The milestone of 30 days without alcohol, sugar, dairy, legumes, and grains came with surprisingly little fanfare, because we weren’t as desperate for the foods we gave up as we expected to be. In fact, by the time we reached 30 days we were saying, let’s just keep this going. We didn’t have cake or ice cream or pizza to celebrate. It’s a crazy thing, and certainly not what I expected, but Whole30 can make you feel so good that you don’t want to give that up.

What do I mean by feeling good? Lots of things. I sleep better and more deeply. I am more awake in the morning. I have higher and more sustained energy. I feel clear-headed. I feel motivated. I feel switched on. I have more social energy. I feel social without alcohol (an important distinction). I want to exercise. I want to be outside. I started new activities. I feel more productive. My stomach is flatter. I’m less bloated. My skin is smoother, softer and clearer. I can speed read the hell out of food labels. I am super aware of and more educated about what’s in my food. Things taste sweeter to me naturally. I don’t have strong sugar cravings. I feel less dependent on coffee. My hunger is not hanger. My hunger is less desperate. My stomach never hurts after compliant meals. I never feel like I’m in a food coma.

The feel-goods are good. Really good. Good to the point that I now have a fear of losing them! Ack, I don’t want junk food or sweets, what if it takes away all the good feels I earned?? I even felt a little fear having my first drink in a month. Is it worth it, my little inner voice of reason wondered? And it kind of wasn’t. I had 2 glasses of Prosecco that didn’t taste great to me, and I felt like absolute crap the next day. Headache, stomach ache, so so tired. This is not what a celebration should feel like!

Also, reminder: Whole30 food is GOOD! I do not feel punished or like I’m going without or hungry. In fact, I was hungrier before with all those empty carbs and sugars. One thing I learned right away is that something I’d been eating was really making me bloated, to the point where I would feel huge even if I didn’t look it. Just a few days into Whole30 and I noticed that feeling had gone away, and it stayed away. After 30 days, there was a noticeable visible difference. That alone is motivation enough for me to complete the reintroduction process to evaluate the food groups one by one to find out which type of food did that to me. (Is it cheese? I hope it’s not cheese. It might be cheese. Ugh I’m so sad already.)

The reintroduction phase is what takes the “Whole30” to actual Whole45, but I guess that doesn’t have as nice a ring to it. You have a day of eating things from one category (such as dairy or grains) and then go back to the Whole30 food for 2 days while you evaluate any symptoms that might pop up. Many people seem to skip this part, but I am just as interested in this phase as the first 30 days. When else will I have this clean slate to work with? I mean I really need to know…is it cheese?! I have to get to the bottom of this.

So far, we’re still eating (delicious) Whole30 for the most part, and dabbling in wine and legumes. Let’s see how this goes! Cheers to the Whole30, and onward into the Whole45!

Here are some of the recipes that carried us through:

Sweet Potato & Caramelized Onion Frittata

Coconut Curry Sauce for Chicken, Veggies, or Fish

Sweet Potato Chili

Squash-Stuffed Peppers

© Cook it Pretty 2018


Whole30 Sweet Potato & Caramelized Onion Frittata

When I first dove into the super supportive and informative Whole30 community on Instagram, I came across a video from one of the coaches saying “when it gets tough, clean your house and make a frittata.” I didn’t totally get it at the time, but from my new vantage point on Day 29, I definitely do!

First of all, my tiny kitchen is in a constant state of madness because of all the meals going through it, and because of my lack of a dishwasher. (Insert no-dishwasher pity party here.) So the first step for me accomplishing anything is to clean up so I have room to make something new. Secondly, making a frittata is helpful because it’s easy and you can throw in whatever you already have, it will last you through a couple days, it’s highly portable, and can be eaten for any meal of the day. It’s oddly comforting to know you have one in the fridge ready and waiting for you!

I like this particular frittata because it includes caramelized onions and a sweet potato crust. That may sound complicated but it’s really not, and just makes whatever else you put in it taste extra awesome. Caramelizing onions does take a while, but you can mostly leave them alone while you’re doing other stuff, and I think it’s worth it.

The “crust” is just thinly sliced sweet potato pieces arranged to mostly cover the bottom and sides of a baking dish. Bake it on its own first. Don’t worry too much about how it looks, it will be completely covered with other ingredients.

Then you add in your caramelized onions and whatever other veggies you have on hand, and top with whisked eggs.

Back in the oven, and done. I was concerned about it not tasting good the next day, but it keeps really well. And is extra yummy when topped with (compliant, of course) hot sauce. More detailed instructions below!


Whole30 Sweet Potato & Caramelized Onion Frittata

2 Tbs Ghee, Coconut Oil, or Olive Oil, divided
1 Sweet Potato, peeled, halved, and sliced thin
2 Small or 1 Large Onion, sliced thin* (yellow, white, or red)
1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced thin*
1 Zucchini, sliced thin*
1 Handful Mushrooms, sliced thin*
1 Handful Baby Spinach
12 Eggs (approximate, may change based on the size of your dish and size of your eggs)
Whole30 Compliant Hot Sauce for serving

*If you have a food processor with a slicer attachment, it works great for a nice thin slice on your veggies. If not, just go small and thin so that they’ll easily cook through.

Preheat oven to 400F. Add 1Tbs of the cooking oil to a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the sliced onions and stir to coat. Turn down to low heat and continue to stir occasionally for about 45 minutes, until caramelized. Meanwhile, add the remaining 1 Tbs of cooking oil to a baking dish, coating the bottom and sides. Arrange the sweet potato slices in the bottom and along the sides of the dish, overlapping slightly for more coverage. This is your “crust”. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes, then set aside. Keep stirring those onions. Add remaining vegetables to the baking dish, and top with the onions when they’re ready. Whisk the eggs together with salt and pepper in a large bowl, then pour over the veggies in the baking dish. If the eggs don’t quite cover the whole dish, whisk together a couple more and add in until covered. Return to oven for 25-30 more minutes, until cooked through in the center and slightly browned on top. Serve with hot sauce and enjoy!

Note: This recipe is very flexible on the additional veggies you use. Feel free to use whatever you like best and have available. Only thing to keep in mind is the size of your slice, ensuring that they’ll cook through with the eggs.

© Cook it Pretty 2018

Whole30 Coconut Curry Sauce

I’m married to someone who realllyyyyyy likes sauces and condiments, which I knew would be a challenge when we started Whole30. Spoiler alert: most store-bought condiments, dressings, and sauces contain sugar, sweeteners, wheat, and other weird stuff you don’t want on your salad. I figured hey, I’ve always thought about making my own mayo and ketchup…now’s the time! I’m also not above going to dinner with compliant mustard in my purse (a thing that has actually happened this month).


Making mayo is a lot harder than anticipated (that’s probably for another post…), but I’ve found a few easy and tasty sauces that I keep falling back on to literally spice up our healthy AF meals. 25 days worth of them, OH BY THE WAY!

This Coconut Curry sauce, which is inspired by a recipe from the Whole30 book, is an easy add-on for fish, chicken, and veggie bowls. So you might as well go ahead and make a big ol’ batch of it to keep on hand for flavor emergencies. The sauce lover in the house heartily approves this message!

Whole30 Coconut Curry Sauce

3 Tbs Coconut Oil
1 White or Yellow Onion, diced
4 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbs Curry Powder (yellow works, try what you got!)
1 1/2 Cups Canned Diced or Crushed Tomato
3/4 Cup Coconut Cream*
Juice of 1 Lime
S&P to taste

*You can buy cans of coconut cream, or refrigerate a can of coconut milk for a couple hours, which allows the cream to collect at the top to be easily scraped off.

Heat the coconut oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and stir about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds. Add the curry powder and quickly stir with onion and garlic, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Puree mixture with a hand blender (or transfer into a food processor or blender). Transfer to a mixing bowl and let cool 10 minutes. Stir in the coconut cream, lime juice, and salt and pepper. Serve over grilled or roasted salmon, chicken, or veggies and keep the remaining sauce refrigerated in a jar for the next meal in need of a flavor kick. Enjoy!

© Cook it Pretty 2018

Fall Squash Quinoa

Fall Squash Quinoa | Cook it Pretty
Cutting right to the chase, you need this dish in your life. This recipe is full of fall flavor bombs: squash (or pumpkin), dates, dried cranberries, almonds, balsamic, and warm spices. It’s also healthy (because spinach), gluten-free, and vegetarian. I have made it with acorn squash, butternut squash, and gem pumpkins. You can impress guests by stuffing the quinoa mixture in a roasted acorn squash. It looks really cute. But this deconstructed method tastes the same. I’ll leave it to you to decide if you want to go the extra mile in presentation. I know this looks like a lot of ingredients but that’s ok because they’re all bringing something to the table.

Fall Squash Quinoa
1 Squash of your choice (butternut or acorn), halved and scooped
1  cup uncooked Quinoa
2 cups Water
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 small Red Onion, diced
2 cloves Garlic, minced
S&P to taste
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 cup Honey
1/2 cup fresh Spinach
1 tsp Red Pepper flakes (more to taste)
1/4 cup chopped raw Almonds
6 Medjool Dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup dried Cranberries
1/4 cup crumbled Feta
1/2 cup fresh Cilantro, chopped

Roast the Squash
Preheat the oven to 400F. In a roasting pan, drizzle the squash halves with 1 Tbs of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place them cut side down and roast for 20-25 minutes. Turn the halves over and return to oven for 10 more minutes. They’re done when you can easily stick a fork all the way through the flesh of the squash.

Cook the Quinoa
While the squash is roasting, bring your quinoa and water to a boil on the stovetop. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking the quinoa covered for 15 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Set aside.

Ready the Flavor Bombs
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet. Add the chopped onion and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic and stir. Add a dash of salt and pepper, cumin and cinnamon. Add the balsamic and honey and allow it to reduce for a couple minutes. Add the spinach and stir until the leaves cook down. Turn off heat. Add your cooked quinoa and mix well. Add red pepper flakes,  almonds, dates, cranberries, crumbled feta and cilantro and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Combine Forces
If you’re going for presentation points, spoon the quinoa mixture into the roasted squash halves. If your halves aren’t so pretty or you just don’t care, go ahead and scoop the cooked squash out of its skin and add it to the quinoa mixture.


© Cook it Pretty 2016

Southwest Quinoa Salad

Southwest Quinoa Salad | Cook it Pretty

My Dad is a nutritionist’s, personal trainer’s, and doctor’s dream. He follows instructions and has admirable levels of will power. Over the past several years, he has gradually lost weight and completely changed his lifestyle, all under professional guidance and with no extreme diets or fad exercise routines. He’s definitely the healthiest septuagenarian I know.

When I visit him in California, I benefit from all this because all I have to do is wake up and get dressed and I have a ride and a gym buddy every morning. We usually do some grocery shopping afterwards, for lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and the occasional pre-made dish from the Whole Foods salad bar. One day his favorite one of these, a quinoa salad with corn and black beans, was no longer available. It had become one of my faves as well, and I was disappointed to not see it in the fridge when I was home in June. I decided to recreate it myself, and Father’s Day seemed like just the occasion for it.

Southwest Quinoa Salad | Cook it Pretty

Shopping for produce in California is AN ABSOLUTE JOY. I never really appreciated this before moving to Dubai. The availability of local produce in California is exceptional, and the summer haul is hard to beat. I still come across some California fruits in Dubai, but it makes me sad to think about how long they must have been sitting on a boat to get here. Not exactly fresh from the farm. Not to mention the sticker shock of all the imported goods, and by imported goods I mean nearly everything.

Enter this fresh sweet corn from Northern California! I admit, it’s been a very long time since I’ve actually shucked corn and cut it off the cob myself. I tend to just keep frozen corn stocked and had convinced myself it “tastes the same.” NO it does not! The extra effort is definitely worth it. That said, of course you could still make this recipe with good ol’ frozen kernels.

Southwest Quinoa Salad | Cook it Pretty
I roasted the corn on a cookie sheet with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. This was definitely the star of the dish. Of course, the local avocados also helped. Lately it seems I don’t eat much without adding avocado to it. I can’t help it, I’m Californian. It’s what we do.

I made a pretty huge batch so that Dad (and I!) could enjoy the leftovers for the rest of the week. Good thing it was a hit, because we sure did have a lot of it! That day I served it as a side for some roasted salmon, along with some truly special heirloom carrots. It’s also great on its own for a light and healthy lunch (Dad-approved, vegan and gluten free, btw) and would be the perfect dish to bring to a summer BBQ. In Dubai we can only have winter BBQs, but you get the idea.

Southwest Quinoa Salad

Big Batch of Salad
2 cups uncooked white Quinoa
3 ears of Corn, cut off the cob
2 large Avocados, diced
1 red Bell Pepper, diced
1 medium Red Onion, diced
1 can Black Beans, rinsed
Handful Cilantro, chopped or cut with shears
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

For the Dressing
Juice from 2 Limes
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1 Tbs Honey
1/2 to 1 tsp Chili powder
Salt & Pepper to taste

NOTE: This is a big batch, but you can easily reduce amounts of everything if desired!

To cook the quinoa, bring the 2 cups of quinoa plus 4 cups of water to a boil in a sauce pan on the stove. (If you are cooking for fewer people, try 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water. Just remember it’s always a 2:1 ratio of liquid to quinoa). As soon as it’s bubbling and boiling, cover and reduce the heat to low. Let cook for about 15 minutes, until all water is absorbed. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for a bit before adding other ingredients, as the salad should be served room temp or slightly chilled.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Add corn kernels to a cookie sheet or shallow roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil, and a bit of salt and pepper, tossing to coat. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes. Let cool.

Combine cooked quinoa with prepared vegetables, beans, and cilantro, adding the corn when it has cooled. In a separate bowl, whisk together ingredients for the dressing. Treat the given measurements as a guideline, adding more or less of what you like to suit your tastes. Skip the chili powder if you’re averse to spicy (like my Dad!). Taste it to make sure it’s not too tart or too spicy, and add a little more honey and/or salt and pepper if needed to balance out the flavor. Drizzle over the salad and lightly toss together.

If you want to garnish with some pretty avo slices like in the photo, this is how to do it:
Slice the avocado in half lengthwise and remove the pit. Gently peel off the skin, which should be easy if it’s ripe. Lay the avocado half flat-side down and slice lengthwise in narrow strips. Pick a few pretty bits to fan out and place on top of your salad so when you enter the party everyone says OOOOOOH briefly before eating it all and telling you how awesome you are.


© Cook it Pretty 2016

A House Divided …Over Quinoa

Some consider quinoa a food trend, but I consider it a staple. I get it, you’re sick of hearing about it and seeing it on menus, you’ve seen it all before, foodies! The thing you might be overlooking is that quinoa is both delicious and good for you – a rare combination that never goes out of style in my book. I’m not mad at the trend because it provides me with an endless supply of new recipes to try. Quinoa bites? Yes. Quinoa for breakfast? Let’s do it. Quinoa salads? E’ryday.


I first learned of quinoa at a vegetarian restaurant in LA when it made a sneaky appearance in an otherwise typical salad, and was described on the menu as a superfood/protein booster. I was intrigued. I Googled. I bought it next time I saw it at Trader Joe’s. I tested a few Pinterest recipes and loved them all. I’m ALL IN on this super grain.

Except when I try to serve it to the man, who doesn’t even like the word quinoa. But…but…it’s a versatile grain with high protein content! A house divided. So I’m pretty determined to prove that I’m right on this issue. Especially when we are trying to eat healthy, how (and WHY) would I eliminate quinoa from my already small repertoire?

Broc n Toms
I’ve tried serving him things without telling him what he’s eating. But I have a terrible poker face and when I say it’s “fancy cous cous” or “just some salad thing” he’s sooo not falling for it. So when the other day I was told I could make anything I wanted for dinner as long as it contained a lot of vegetables, I took the opportunity to try to win him over to team quinoa once and for all.

This recipe features roasted broccoli and is topped with creamy goat cheese. The technique of cooking the quinoa in stock gives the dish a fuller and more satisfying flavor. I have a bad (or great) habit of adding more and more goat cheese to my bowl when I eat this…what can I say, goat cheese makes me happy.

Broc Quinoa
You guys, it worked! He liked it. Must have been the goat cheese.

I found the original recipe on Design Sponge. (Only now in re-reading it do I realize it’s from the creator of What’s Gaby Cooking, which I’m a big fan of as well). I’ve made a couple modifications, such as using broccoli instead of broccolini and roasting the tomatoes, so I’ll include my “Cook it Pretty way” below. Maybe it will win you over too!

Roasted Broccoli & Quinoa With Goat Cheese

Broc Quinoa Goat
1 bunch broccoli
Olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Red pepper flakes to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup quinoa (mix white and red quinoa)
2 cups chicken (or vegetable) stock
Crumbled goat cheese to taste
10 or so cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Bring quinoa and stock to a boil on the stove top. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Cut the broccoli into bite-sized pieces.

Place broccoli on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

Roast for 10 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven to add tomatoes. Return pan to oven and continue roasting another 5 minutes.

Combine the cooked quinoa and roasted broccoli and tomatoes in a bowl, topping with goat cheese. Serve warm, and keep that goat cheese handy!