Whole30 Salmon Cakes

There are a handful of recipes that I leaned on during my Whole30 that have made it into regular rotation in “normal life” — which is now separated into things that are Whole30 and things that are WholeDirty. I try to keep things on the Whole30 side for the most part, but I’ve reincorporated things like corn, beans, rice, and wine, and make exceptions for dishes or occasions that are especially worth it. Warm chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven at a very special restaurant? WORTH IT. That marginal brown dessert they give you on an airplane? NOT WORTH IT. Turkish bread with hummus when you’re actually in Turkey? WORTH IT. Stale bread they put out on every table with “butter” in a little plastic package? NOT WORTH IT. You get the picture.

So when I’m not delving into worth-it WholeDirty treats, one of those go-to clean recipes that I’ve hung onto that also surprised me by being so delicious, versatile, and crowd-pleasing is these salmon cakes. The first time I made them I made the MASSIVE mistake of buying the wrong cans of salmon, aka the ones with all the bones in them. Do not do this. It was disturbing, not to mention time-consuming. I also had to bake sweet potatoes to add in, since I didn’t have any hope of finding canned sweet potato puree in this country (which is a plus for flavor, just another extra time suck). I was not at all sure how they were going to come out, and I wasn’t a huge fan of tartar sauce so I didn’t think the sauce would be that great either. But then, my husband took a few bites and gave me a big “Mmm…you made these?!” They were a hit! Picking the bones out was worth it, but I still recommend the boneless stuff all. the. way.

The mayonnaise-based tartar sauce with chopped dill pickles, lemon juice, and dill was also surprisingly good and really paired perfectly. Since that first time I’ve made them for my in-laws, my parents, and my best friend and her toddler. My mom said they were the best salmon cakes she’s ever had, and even a 2-year old enjoyed them. So, don’t take it from me folks, this recipe is a winner!

They’re delicious on their own with the tartar sauce, or served on top of a simple green salad, or for brunch Benedict-style topped with poached eggs. I like to make a big batch and freeze half because they do reheat well in a skillet. Feel free to double the recipe below if you’re aiming to freeze. Any other serving ideas out there? I want to eat these all of the ways.

These recipes are based on the Whole30 book, but I’ve added my own twists.

Whole30 Salmon Cakes & Tartar Sauce

For the Salmon Cakes

(Makes 12)
2 Tbs coconut oil
3 6oz cans of wild caught boneless & skinless salmon
1 large or 2 small eggs
1 cup sweet potato (either canned or baked and mashed)
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbs fresh dill, minced
2 Tbs fresh cilantro, minced
1/2 cup almond flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp ground pepper

For the Tartar Sauce
1 cup Whole30 compliant mayo (home made or your favorite store bought)
2 Tbs fresh dill, minced
2 Tbs compliant dill pickles, minced
1 tsp dill pickle juice
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp black pepper

Make the Salmon Cakes
Preheat the oven to 425ºF (218ºC). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and brush or rub the coconut oil onto the parchment paper.

Drain the liquid from the salmon cans and add fish to a large mixing bowl, flaking with a fork. Add the eggs, scrambling the yolks to distribute evenly. Then add the sweet potato, onion, bell pepper, garlic, dill, cilantro, salt, paprika and pepper and mix well.

Use a 1/3c measuring cup to scoop the salmon mixture onto the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Flatten each scoop into a round, flat patty, keeping them uniform in size and thickness.

Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from oven to flip each patty over. Return to the oven for 10-15 more minutes (15 if you want them crispier on the edges).

Make the Tartar Sauce
Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl until combined. Taste and add more lemon juice, pickles, or dill as desired.

Serve the salmon cakes drizzled with tartar sauce on their own, on top of a green salad, or topped with poached eggs for a fancy Benedict-style brunch dish.

Enjoy!

© Cook it Pretty 2018

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Top 10 Whole30 Tips

Because Whole30 alumni never stop talking about Whole30, friends and family are bound to get curious about this thing that you just can’t shut up about. Wasn’t that just a New Year’s Resolution? It’s March now, why are we still talking about this so much?

We had such a good experience with Whole30 that we want to keep living Whole30-ish. (Welcome back legumes, corn and rice! RIP dairy and most grains. Cheers to a little wine.) And now, it seems like some people around us are getting inspired to try it too. And I want to be helpful and share some of what I learned in the process, so here are my Top 10 Whole30 Tips! There are some links and recipe ideas throughout.

1. Buy the Book & Get Social

The Whole 30 book lays out all the rules, has shopping lists and meal plans, and lots of recipes. It’s such a helpful guide, and I wouldn’t recommend trying the program without it. At least a few days before your start date, study the rules, familiarize yourself with what is and isn’t compliant (your new favorite word), mark some pages for reference, and pick a few recipes that you want to try. My copy is full of post-its with notes and recipe tweaks, and I referred to it literally every day for 30 days. I checked in on the Timeline every day to see what to expect at each stage  – and I found it so helpful to know that feeling extra cranky or tired some days was just part of the program, and not just me. You will likely hate everyone and everything on Day 4, so try to plan accordingly!

There are also some great resources online, and I recommend bookmarking the Whole30 “Can I Have” list in your phone so that you can refer to it while grocery shopping or dining out. Also check out their official Instagram pages (@whole30recipes & @whole30). I follow a lot of food people (duh) and found that it helped when I unfollowed some of the more unhealthy food pages, you know, the ones that are filled with donuts and ice cream and pretty cupcakes every day. So I followed a few new Whole30/clean eating/healthy living accounts, and now that you can follow hashtags I also followed #whole30, #januarywhole30 and #iamwhole30 for some daily inspiration. The hashtags were a great way for me to find fellow Whole30 newbies as well as experts.

It really helps if you have a friend, partner, or coworker committed to doing the program along with you. Teamwork makes the dream work! Keep in mind that the first week is hard, and you’ll be tired. Support and camaraderie is nice. But once you get through that, you’ll start feeling better and better.

2. Purge & Restock

Purging your kitchen of the stuff that you’re eliminating for the next 30 days is a great way to get in the right mindset for your mission ahead. I ceremoniously trashed the sugar I used to put in my coffee every day (habit fully broken, by the way!), the bread, the cheese, the milk, the butter, and the tortilla chips while listening to Beyonce singing “Boy, Bye!” but the soundtrack is optional (encouraged, but optional!).

Check the labels on everything in your fridge and pantry. Sorry friends, but Sriracha has sugar in it. So do many mayos, mustards, salsas, and tomato sauces, and definitely ketchup. This is good practice for all the label reading you’ll be doing in grocery store aisles over the next month and probably for the rest of your life.

If you don’t want to trash some unopened stuff, at least hide it in the back of the cabinet. Then start replacing these things with compliant items, ideally the day before your start date so you’re prepped and ready for Day 1. I’ve heard that Whole Foods has an entire Whole30 section, so be on the lookout!

Some key staples always on my shopping list are:  eggs, chicken or salmon, sweet potatoes, avocados, broccoli (and all other favorite veggies), onion, garlic, baby spinach, coconut milk (canned 100%), coconut oil, canned diced tomatoes, bananas, green apples, almond butter, raw almonds, dried cranberries (sweetened with apple juice), compliant hot sauce (ideally one that’s just peppers, vinegar, and salt), vinegar (balsamic, apple cider, and red wine are all allowed), and a range of spices (curry, chili, paprika, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric – you still need to check the labels on spices! Some contain corn starch or wheat).

3. Put an Egg on it

You’re going to wake up on Day 1 and be like ok what do I do now… and the answer is EAT, so it’s a good thing that you stocked your kitchen with compliant items! If you have time to wake up a little bit early and make yourself an easy easy egg breakfast, do it. You can even pre-chop some veggies like a red onion and a bell pepper the night before to make a morning scramble come together super quickly. If you know that you will absolutely not be cooking for yourself in the morning before work, prepare something the night before, like this frittata or just some hard boiled eggs that you can bring along with you (don’t forget the salt and hot sauce!).

As someone that doesn’t eat a lot of meat, eggs are a very easy protein source for me to keep around and throw on top of anything, breakfast or not. I do a lot of roasted vegetable medleys topped with a fried egg — that can be any meal of the day! An avocado and compliant hot sauce always pairs well with any of these egg dishes. When in doubt, just make some eggs.

A favorite discovery was this sweet potato egg dish: Just scoop out a baked sweet potato, mash it in a bowl with a little coconut oil and sea salt, and top with one or two over medium eggs and hot sauce. SO good.

4. Keep it Simple & Make Big Batches

You don’t get extra credit for making 30 new recipes during your 30 days. You’ll burn yourself out if you try to do too much, so my advice is to keep it simple. Find a few key compliant things that you enjoy making and eating, and stick with what’s working for you. Focus on some favorite proteins (for me that’s salmon or chicken), find an easy preparation method (I like to roast everything), pair proteins with fresh salads or roasted vegetables, and top with rotating dressings or sauces (see #5).

Top bite sized broccoli and cauliflower pieces with olive oil, sea salt, and red pepper flakes. Roast at 400°F for 25 minutes. Repeat. Not pictured: line your pan with parchment paper for easy cleanup.

Be sure to make everything in double batches. If you’re roasting a head of broccoli you might as well add cauliflower too and have leftovers the next day. It’s just as easy to roast a few big sweet potatoes as it is to prep one. Double your sauce recipes then keep leftovers in jars in the fridge. Make sure you have a tall stockpot for soups and chili, so that you can always max out the portions and have lots of leftovers.

My method for baking big sweet potatoes: quarter them, microwave for 5 minutes, then wrap in foil and bake in a 400°F oven for 30-40 minutes. Keep them in the fridge for a few days for easy meal additions!

If you’re getting bored or feeling motivated to try something new, seek inspiration from the recipes in the Whole30 book or their Instagram feeds and put something fresh in your rotation. Just try to make everything as easy as possible for yourself!

5. Get Saucy

A great way to mix up your meals is to get some staple compliant sauces going. One fantastic sauce to keep around is Tahini. Tahini paste is just sesame seeds, therefore compliant. To make it into a yummy sauce you add salt, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley or cilantro. No cooking required, just some mashing and mixing.

Get the full sauce recipe here, then use it to top chicken, salmon, roasted veggies, or as a dip for raw veggies like tomato and cucumber. Tahini is the new hummus (sorry, chickpeas are legumes).

Coconut Curry Sauce is another one of my favorites that  goes well with almost everything. It’s easy to make too. Check out my post with the recipe here.

There’s a recipe for Romesco Sauce in the Whole30 book that I also love. It has a nice texture with the nuts, and a really great zing to it with the spices and vinegar. Pair it with zoodles and shrimp like in the link, or try it on chicken and eggplant. There’s a whole sauce section in the book, which includes buffalo, ranch, and pesto, so pick out some faves!

7. You Can Whole30 That

You don’t have to stop eating everything you’re familiar with, but you may have to modify your old stand-bys. My first big Whole30 swap was my morning coffee, which I have always enjoyed with a lot of cream and sugar. The book has a good point on this subject, which is are you sure you actually like coffee? Valid, Melissa Hartwig, valid. I initially thought that I would give up coffee in the process because I probably wouldn’t really like it if I couldn’t have cream and sugar. Instead, I swapped in coconut milk and boosted the spices (turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon).

It took me a couple days to adjust to the different texture of it and to get used to the absence of sugar, but I have started to really enjoy it. I’ve always liked all the coffee drinks that end in “spice” and this combo of spices is a home run for me. And newsflash: coconut milk is delicious! Nut milks are also allowed as long as they don’t have any sweeteners in them.

Have some regular recipes or cooking methods you use that call for lots of butter? Just swap in ghee, coconut oil, or olive oil instead. If you want to make a soup (or curry, or anything) creamy, use coconut milk. Leave out the sweeteners and opt for herbs, spices, or a squeeze of fresh citrus instead. If you’re used to having grains as a side, try cauliflower rice, or make a potato-based dish instead. Try making a sauce you normally buy premade yourself so you get all the flavor and none of the junk. You’ll become a recipe and ingredient scanning pro, and be able to tell right away whether you can easily Whole30 it or not.

8. Snacking is Better than Failing

Snacks are discouraged on Whole30. Personally, I have always been a big grazer so I knew this would be tough. My goals for the program weren’t as much about breaking bad food habits as they were about evaluating the elimination of certain food groups, so I didn’t feel like having a snack would derail me as long as the snack components were compliant. This will be different for everyone, but in my opinion, snacking is better than failing. To be clear, I’m not talking about potato chips, paleo sweets, or pre-packaged snacks, which are clearly prohibited on Whole30.

Especially during Week 1, I felt like I needed more snacks while my body was adjusting to new fuel sources. It’s also important to always have something compliant with you, whether you’re on a road trip, at work, at the beach, on a plane, or at the movies. Sometimes, you just gotta snack! And better to have something compliant in your purse than break protocol in a moment of desperation and have to start over. My go-to compliant snacks are trail mixes of nuts and dried fruit, usually raw almonds with unsweetened dried apricots or apple juice-sweetened cranberries.

Now I’m going to tell you a little secret. Almond butter stirred with a splash of coconut milk and a sprinkle of sea salt is magical. Top a sliced banana or green apple with this stuff and you’ll feel like Whole30 hasn’t denied you anything. Don’t go overboard, because this could fall into the category of “food with no brakes”. But really, you’re welcome.

If you’re looking for something more savory, try hot sauce on raw almonds. Seriously, it’s like healthy hot cheetos. Or avocado sprinkled with hot sauce and sea salt. (Yes, my hot sauce consumption went way up during those 30 days!) Or cucumber and carrots dipped in Tahini.

9. Use Everything

I already mentioned that leftovers are precious. Think your leftovers all the way through. For example, if you roast a whole chicken at the beginning of the week, that one lil chicken can get you through the whole week with a little creativity!

Try this roasted chicken recipe with olive oil instead of butter. Slice some of the breast meat and put it on top of a fresh spinach salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil and balsamic for lunch. Have another portion of the chicken for dinner, with a side of baked sweet potato and roasted broccoli.

The next day you can shred some of the chicken to use in a salad with compliant mayo and other mix-ins of your choosing (try grapes, cilantro, and chopped nuts). When you’ve used all the chicken meat, save all the bones and start a batch of bone broth. Incorporate your home made broth into this big batch of chili. Refrigerate half the leftovers and freeze the other half. You’ll get a few days out of the chili, and have some frozen on hand in the future when you’re in a pinch.

When you start thinking like this, meal prep comes a lot more easily.

10. It Gets Easier

Week 1 is hard. Shoot, it will already feel hard on Day 3. You’ll be tired and cranky and want to eat all the non-compliant foods you can think of and go drink wine with your friends and throw your Whole30 book in the trash. It gets better and it gets easier. When you understand the reasons behind how you’re feeling, it’s easier to push through.

In the first week, your body is switching fuel sources. You’re used to running on sugar and carbs, and your body is used to burning those for energy. But when you deprive your body of the sugar and carbs it’s used to, it’s forced to find a new source of energy — fat. You want your body to burn fat, but you have to give it a chance to switch gears. In the meantime, you’ll feel tired and crave carbs. When you feel tired, sleep if you can. When you have cravings, eat something compliant instead. Then, your body will start using its new fuel. Suddenly, you’ll start to feel better, and then you’ll start to feel amazing. A fog lifts from your brain, you feel fully awake and switched on, and you have what feels like unlimited energy. Whole30 calls this Tiger Blood. It can come in a surge of motivation to check things off your to-do list, start a new activity, go for a run, or do jumping jacks in the middle of your office.

Get a calendar going and cross off the days as part of your daily ritual. A visualization of the countdown really helped me! Just get through the first week and your Tigers Blood will be around the corner. Then focus that newfound energy on healthy activities, exercise, and meal prepping. And the 30 days will be up before you know it. Over time, your cravings will literally be turned off. You’ll find it’s easier to pass on the wine and the bread, and you may not even want dessert by the time you’re allowed to reintroduce it. It’s an empowering change, and it only takes a month to achieve it!

Bonus Tip: A Word on Socializing

You CAN eat out in restaurants during this month. But you will be kind of annoying when you do. Make sure you’re well educated on what you can and can’t eat before you go out. If possible, preview the menu online and figure out how to Whole30 it. Don’t make it the job of your server to tell you everything that’s Whole30 on the menu – that’s your responsibility. Keep your “Can I Have” guide handy, and Google is your friend when you come across something you don’t know on the menu. What’s in chimichurri again? A quick Google search for a recipe will tell you it’s compliant.

Usually ordering sauces and dressings on the side and swapping sides of grains or fries for veggies or salads is a pretty safe bet. If you wind up with a plain piece of meat or pile of vegetables, you can always ask for balsamic, an easy way to jazz it up that most restaurants should have on hand. You may also be able to get away with bringing a compliant sauce with you. Channel Beyoncé and have hot sauce in your bag (swag).

Also try different ideas for socializing other than dinners and happy hours to make avoiding alcohol easier. Suggest going for walks, bike rides, hitting the beach or pool, or something else around town you’ve been meaning to try. You may surprise yourself with all the new things you can accomplish in a month without alcohol and hangover days. I think you’ll find that good friends will be supportive, and you might end up re-evaluating some friendships if anyone isn’t. If you can’t hang out with someone sober…are you really friends?

Now pick your start date, commit, and start counting down to the Tiger Blood! Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions or if I missed a topic you’re curious about. Also check out my previous Whole 30 posts for more thoughts on the subject:

Halfway to Whole30
Whole30 Squash-Stuffed Peppers
Whole30 Sweet Potato Chili
Whole30 Coconut Curry Sauce
Whole30 Sweet Potato & Caramelized Onion Frittata
The Whole30 (or 45)

You got this!

© Cook it Pretty 2018

Chicken Bone Broth

Bone broth is kind of buzzy in food and nutrition circles these days. There are health benefits ranging from improved gut health to better skin and nails. I love it because the flavor you get from a home made batch is above and beyond anything store bought, you can control what’s going into it, and it really enhances your home made soups.

The process is easy, but it does take a lot of hands-off time – basically an entire day of simmering – so it requires some planning. The method for getting the most health benefits out of your broth is slow and low. Cooking at a low temperature for 12-24 hours ensures the highest amounts of nutrients, minerals, and collagen in your broth.

It’s great to incorporate this as a step in your meal planning, which I learned doing Whole30 in January. If you’re going to roast a chicken (or buy a pre-roasted one), definitely retain the bones and plan on making broth and then soup later that week. And of course making it yourself ensures that it’s compliant if you’re doing Whole30. Give this broth recipe a try, then make this Whole30 Chili with it, or my Pumpkin Soup (if you’re not doing Whole30!).

Chicken Bone Broth

Bones/carcass from 1 whole chicken
2 Carrots, roughly chopped
3 Stalks celery, roughly chopped
2 Onions (white or yellow), roughly chopped
1 two-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 one-inch piece of fresh turmeric, peeled and roughly chopped
6 Fresh cilantro stems
1 Sprig fresh thyme
2 Tbs Apple cider vinegar
10 Whole black peppercorns
1 tsp Salt (Himalayan or sea salt)

Add all ingredients to a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer covered over low heat for 12-24 hours. Strain the broth through a mesh colander, removing and discarding all solids. Transfer the broth to several jars and/or measuring cups and allow to cool to room temperature before refrigerating uncovered for several hours, allowing the fat to rise to the top. Scrape off the fat with a spoon and discard. Cover and keep refrigerated. Should last about 5 days in the fridge, or freeze for up to 6 months. I like to pre-measure the broth in the containers for easy addition to recipes, especially before freezing.

© Cook it Pretty 2018

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!

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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)
S&P
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).

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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

Whole30 Squash-Stuffed Peppers

When someone is on Whole30 you’ll definitely know it, because all they can talk about is Whole30 and what they’re eating and how they’re feeling. Sorry. We can’t help it. Because the program injects you with newfound energy and motivation, I’m actually writing blog posts again for the first time in almost a year. I’m not here to convert anyone, I’m just feeling inspired to cook and to write, and finding some pretty good healthy recipes along the way. If you’re interested in a little more what/why/how, read my Halfway to Whole30 post.

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This stuffed pepper recipe is the first one I made for Whole30, and definitely the cutest. I was inspired by a recipe in the actual Whole30 book, but that one included ground meat. I didn’t have any and kinda didn’t want it anyway! So I did a veggie version with butternut squash as the staple of the “stuffing” part. Because Whole30 doesn’t allow dairy or any grains, this recipe is vegan and gluten free. It’s also sugar free, which sounds like a no-brainer but most tomato sauces contain sugar!

I was very happy with my very first Whole30 recipe! It was flavorful, filling, cute, and colorful. I usually make a “southwest” version of stuffed peppers but that included beans and corn so that was out…and this was a very yummy alternative. You could use a similar process for all kinds of different fillings, either veggie or carnivorous. And because the presentation is so nice, this would be a good choice if you happen to have guests to serve while you’re on your crazy health kick. Enjoy!

Whole30 Squash-Stuffed Peppers

4 Large Red Bell Peppers
3 Tbs Olive Oil
1/2 Onion, finely chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
Handful Baby Spinach
2 Tbs Tomato Paste (double check that yours doesn’t contain sugar)
1/4 tsp Cumin
1/4 tsp Chili Powder
1/2 tsp Sea Salt or Pink Salt
1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 cup Butternut Squash, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Slice the top of each pepper, and remove the white pith and seeds, keeping the pepper intact so that you can fill it with goodies later. If they don’t stand upright, slice off a thin layer along the bottom to make it flatter, being careful not to make a hole in the bottom of the pepper. Place the peppers and tops in a deep baking dish lined with parchment paper (or drizzle the pan with oil if you don’t have parchment paper). Roast for 10 minutes, then set aside.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the onion and cook about 3 minutes while stirring. Add the garlic and cook one more minute. Add the spinach and cook until leaves are wilted. Add the tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add the squash and cook 5 minutes until softened.

Spoon the veggie mixture into the bell peppers and return to the oven, roasting for 10-15 minutes, until the peppers look wrinkly. There may be extra filling, which you can reserve to eat later. (Leftovers are always a win on Whole30!)

Optional: Top with Tahini Sauce like this one. It goes well with everything!

© Cook it Pretty 2018

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.

Enjoy!

© Cook it Pretty 2016

Tuna Salad You Can Get Excited About


Tuna Salad You Can Get Excited About | Cook it PrettyTuna salad is typically not anything to write home about, but I promise if you try this combination you’re going to get out your pen.

The best thing about tuna in general is it’s gotta be the easiest protein to keep around. Canned white meat tuna is super inexpensive and those days when I feel like I need to up my protein, chances are it’s already in my cabinet.

My favorite combo brings together sweet, savory, spice, and crunch and I find it so satisfying I don’t even need to put it on bread – so gluten free or carb conscious folks, this works for you! It’s a healthy, guilt free, and quick lunch that I actually crave.

Laura’s Favorite Tuna Salad

2 cans white meat tuna (I prefer packed in water), drained
Light mayo, to taste
Juice from 1/2 lemon
Black pepper to taste
1 tsp Cumin
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 large or 2 small celery stalks, chopped
Handful Dried cranberries
Handful raw almonds, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mixing well. Add more seasoning, cranberries, or nuts to taste. Enjoy alone, on crackers, or in a sandwich.

What do you like or hate in your tuna salad?

© Cook it Pretty 2015

It’s January. Eat a Salad.

We’re all trying to eat a little better in 2015. Sometimes you need a salad, but it’s even better to want a salad. Here’s my favorite conglomeration of healthy and colorful things, which happily are also delicious together.

Spinach Avocado & Feta Salad | Cook it Pretty

Spinach is my favorite healthy green base, and I’m just not going to be that into a salad that doesn’t have cheese or avocado involved somehow. Throw in some corn, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and an easy homemade balsamic dressing and you’re in biz.

Spinach Avocado & Feta Salad | Cook it Pretty

Spinach Avocado & Feta Salad with Balsamic Dressing

For the Salad
1 bag or package of baby spinach
1-2 cups frozen cut corn, thawed
1 avocado, cubed
1 cucumber, sliced (here in Dubai they’re local or Omani cucumbers, you can find Persian cucumbers at Trader Joe’s in the US)
2 handfuls of mixed cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 red onion, diced finely (to taste, a little goes a long way)
1 handful of crumbled feta cheese

For the Dressing
2-3 Tbs olive oil
1-2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste
Pinch of dried herbs, such as thyme or rosemary, optional

Boom. A healthy and tasty salad for all your New Years Resolution needs, and an easy homemade dressing you’ll probably always have the ingredients for. All measurements are approximate, taste and adjust to your preference.