Another Whole30?!? Yes!

For some reason, I decided in January that I wanted to complete two Whole30s this year… for some unknown reason… so I felt obligated to myself to complete ANOTHER one. And I’m here to say that I DID IT! From mid-August to mid-September I stayed away from sugar, gluten, grains, alcohol, dairy, legumes, and a lot of other things and focused on eating my body weight in veggies every day. Each time I do one of these, I feel like it was easier than the last one, and that is definitely the case this time around, too. (P.S. you can read about my last mega Whole30 here, here, and here!!)

Just like with all of the Whole30s I’ve done in the past, the reason I got through this one with any sense of sanity was the actually insane amount of PLANNING that I put into it. I’m serious. In this particular situation, failing to plan is absolutely planning to fail. I went into this with a meal plan of all 30 days – what I would eat, what recipes I would make, what groceries I would need to buy, and when I would most likely be cooking and shopping for things. I wanted to avoid cooking at 9pm after getting home from bible study or realizing at 3pm on a Saturday that I needed to go get something at Whole Foods at all costs. (I did make the mistake of going to Central Market at 4pm on a Saturday once during the 30 days though… it was terrible and I will never make that mistake again.)

One thing that I wanted to do this time was try as many new recipes as I could! There are just so many resources out there for free (hello, Pinterest!) and I wanted to find good, healthier recipes that I enjoyed cooking and eating that I would hopefully want to make again after the whole 30 days was over. And while some were definitely not going to be repeated, I did find a few new recipes that I’ll be making again for sure! Here’s what I ate this go-round:

  • Turkey apple sage meatballs with zoodles and veggies – these were…. fine. You have to REALLY like sage, tho. My roommate said “oh wow those meatballs are stinky!!!!” and she could smell them every time she opened up the fridge… so… make with caution… or maybe with less sage? I feel like it used a TON. I ended up mashing up the meatballs and putting some of this bbq sauce on top and it made it SO much better! (I got the bbq sauce at Whole Foods and trust me it’s worth the money!!)
    Will I make this again? Probably not… Maybe because it was the first meal I made tho? I usually tend to not like the first meal I make during a Whole30, so maybe it was the timing and not the food? Either way, I probably won’t make it again to find out.
  • Greek chicken with veggies – I do not love cauliflower rice, so this one took some self-convincing to eat all of it. But the rest of it was actually good! Instead of olives and tomatoes, I just did zucchini and squash. And MAKE THE TZATZIKI SAUCE! That’s the only reason I ate this, really! I found the coconut yogurt at Central Market during the ill-timed weekend shopping trip mentioned above (I think it was this brand?) Eating tip: cut up your chicken into little bites, dump all of it into a bowl, and mix in the sauce. Yum.
    Will I make this again? I believe that I will! I might not use exclusively cauliflower rice, though.
  • Chicken bacon ranch bowls – These were very good. However. DO NOT MAKE MY SAME MISTAKE and use turkey bacon. Nope. Get the applegate Whole30 approved bacon and USE THAT (I get mine at Tom Thumb, but I know they sell it at Whole Foods and probably other places, too)!! And if they’re out of the Whole30 bacon at your store, please drive to another store and buy it there. Don’t think that turkey bacon will be good enough because it will not be. And also since I’m lazy, I did NOT spiralize my own sweet potato but I bought this mix from the frozen section and used it instead and it was still delicious.
    Will I make this again? Oh definitely! But with NORMAL BACON and NOT TURKEY BACON. Seriously, I cannot emphasize that enough.
  • BBQ chicken, roasted asparagus, mashed potatoes – this might be my favorite meal that I’ve had so far and it wasn’t even a recipe!! Here’s what I did tho- for the chicken: just cut up your raw chicken into little chunks, toss in this bbq sauce, and bake! So. Good. I used the same mashed potato recipe that I’ve used in the past, and it’s so good. So so good.
    Will I make this again? Oh yeah! In fact, I made it again at the end of my Whole30 because I wasn’t feeling like trying one of the recipes I’d saved and this was just so easy and so good that I gave it another go!
  • Tomato basil turkey meatloaf and veggies – This was also fine/bordering on good. I think I’ve just made the personal decision that I’m not a huge turkey fan unless it’s Thanksgiving… so I guess ground turkey just isn’t my jam. This would probably be good with ground beef. Just like the sage, you’ve gotta LOVE basil cuz it uses a lot. So I’ll use less next time.
    Will I make this again? Ummmmm I might try it with less basil and also with ground beef. So that’s a solid maybe.
  • Sloppy joe bowls and veggies – ummmm yes these were amazing. AMAZING! I made my roommate take a bite of the sloppy joe part because I thought it was that good! And she agreed! I didn’t add in the green pepper cuz I forgot to buy it and also I didn’t want it and I made mashed potatoes instead of the potato bowls.
    Will I make this again? Yes I definitely will! I mean, it was really really good! Like, really good!
  • Chicken nuggets and sauce – these nuggets are GOOD! Definitely soak the chicken in pickle juice (follow the recipe), it made all the difference. And the SAUCE!!!! #praisehandsemoji ooooh it’s good. But really, I don’t even like pickles, and I thought “why on earth would I soak my chicken in pickle juice that will taste weird” but it didn’t, it tasted wonderful.
    Will I make this again? You bet I will! They took some time and attention but it was worth it. I’ve actually made the dipping sauce again already because I liked it so much!
  • Sweet potato fries – I had these with the nuggets above. So good. I LOVE the seasoning on them! And they got so crispy! I was very careful to cut them thin and as close to the same thickness (thinness?) as possible. And bonus, I would dip the fries in the dip I made for the nuggets above and it’s so good!
    Will I make this again? Already have! I made them when some friends came over for dinner and they also thought that they were crisp and seasoned really well and very delicious!

Something I did differently with this Whole30 was I worked out more than I have with previous ones. After a few days of acclimating to the lack of sugar I resumed walking/jogging outside regularly and I even switched my gym and joined one closer to my house! There were a few days where I struggled energy-wise (depending on the time of day, I don’t think I had eaten enough calories to balance with the exercise… I’m not a person that does well with fasted cardio) but for the most part it went really well! I was “training” for a 5K that I ended up walking with a friend last month, and it was good to have a goal in mind to keep me motivated during those 30 days.

So now that it’s over, have I kept up with eating all the healthy things? Ummmmmm no, not exactly… remember my friend came into town at the end of September and we ate ALL the food that weekend, haha. But I have been eating more veggies and I’ve definitely noticed that I’ve cut down on sugar more than normal – there is halloween candy EVERYWHERE and while I want all of it, I haven’t really felt the need, which is new and different for me! (I say that while actively texting with my roommate about having leftover pumpkin bread for breakfast this morning… pumpkin bread that definitely had cream cheese frosting on it… so basically I had cake for breakfast… lol you can’t win ’em all.) Really I’m hoping that going into the holiday season with all the yummy foods and treats and cookies (the cookies!!!) I’ll be able to keep myself in check and be healthier overall, while still being able to enjoy myself and enjoy the meals and treats that accompany family gatherings and work potlucks and things like that.

I love talking to people about Whole30 and how to do it successfully, so if you want to know anything specific or have questions feel free to ask! I send emails to people all the time with a fully curated list of products, tips, and recipes, and would love to share it with you, too! 🙂

The BEST Desserts to Make Today!

One thing that I kind of hate about my townhouse is the oven. (Good thing I’m moving in a couple of days- hah!) It is just… terrible. It NEVER heats up all the way and is wildly inconsistent, even when using an oven thermometer! It’s just gotten worse and worse over the last year, but since “it still heats” the property management company wouldn’t replace it. Which yes, technically makes sense, but also I ruined not one but TWO attempted desserts over the last few months because the oven temp was just so out of whack, so I really just decided I should stop baking until I move.

So naturally since I “can’t” bake at the moment, THAT IS ALL I WANT TO DO! I was going through some recipes that I’ve made trying to decide what one I wanted to make as soon as I move into the house, and I thought that I should share them with you all! These are seriously some of the most delicious things ever and I highly recommend making them!

Ginger Molasses Cookies

These bad boys are SO DELICIOUS. I have no idea why but I was seriously craving some of these a few months ago, so I decided to find the ultimate recipe to become my go-to. This was the second recipe that I tried and I just decided to stop with this one because it’s so good! They’re super hard to mess up and they come out so chewy and delicious!

Extra Gooey Rice Krispies Treats

These are a CROWD PLEASER! I usually add a little bit less rice krispies cereal when I’m making normal rice krispies treats because I like them to be gooier, but this recipe takes care of that for you. The extra marshmallows you use just give it the best texture and the best taste and yes I know that you don’t need to bake these in the oven and therefore I could make them now but also if I made them now I would just eat them all, so…

Black and White Cookies

Oh man. These are time consuming but they are worth the effort! I would say that they’re not for a beginning baker, but I still think you should all try to make them, anyway! My favorite part is the white icing – it reminds me of these cookies we used to get at the local bakery in the town I grew up in… I miss those bear cookies… but anyway, when you do make these, be sure to put the icing on the flat bottom part of the cookie! That’s what makes them seem authentic!

Sugar Cookie Bars

This, sadly, was one of the recipes that got RUINED by my oven. I’ve made these very successfully a few times before, but this time they just got burned to a crisp. Like, I couldn’t even get them out of the pan they were so solid! The frosting is definitely the best part (that’s always true tho for me) and I always like to put fun food coloring in the frosting! These are easy to share since they’re in bar form… I might have to make these my test recipe and then bring the results to work!

Peanut Butter Cookies

This has been my go-to peanut butter cookie recipe for YEARS! They come out of the oven so chewy and soft and amazing! At first it seemed weird to not do the fork imprints on a peanut butter cookie because everyone knows that’s what you’re supposed to do on a peanut butter cookie but nope these are LEGIT the best. Ok I’ve changed my mind, THESE might have to be the things I bake first!

Sprinkled Sugar Cookies

The perfect recipe when you have sprinkles to use up! These are so festive and fun and make the perfect amount to share with a few friends. They’re so soft but the sprinkles add the perfect crunch – it’s just a really lovely cookie!

Now that I’ve shared some of mine, I want to hear some of yours! What’s your favorite baked good, your ride or die treat, your most trusted recipe?

Whole30 Products I Can’t Live Without!

You guys, sometimes cooking is hard. And sometimes cooking ends up in disaster. Like this one time during my first Whole30 where I tried to make my own sugar-free BBQ sauce. It was hard. It was a disaster. 0/10 – would not recommend. So during my most recent Whole30, I decided to save myself a little bit of time and effort and buy certain products and it seriously saved my sanity!

While I was cooking up a storm, there were a few key products that to me were worth a little extra money since they would be saving me so much time and generally making my food that much more delicious. (And honestly, delicious food is a MUST when you can only have like 5 things. I joke. Mostly.) I wanted to share some of the best things I bought and used – let me know if you have any must-have items that you buy when you’re trying to eat healthy!!

Primal Kitchen Mayo

While mayo is extremely easy to make (and I’ve made it numerous times), sometimes it’s just nice to *not* make something. This mayo tastes SO GOOD and is worth it if you’re short on time or don’t have any eggs at home. I bought their chipotle mayo for a specific recipe and it was delicious, and I doubt that I could have mixed in the spices as well as they did!

Waterloo Sparkling Water

When you can’t have soda or alcohol and you’re used to having lots of soda or alcohol, normal still water just won’t cut it. I’ve had La Croix for years and years and it’s great and all, but then I tried Waterloo. Specifically the Watermelon flavor. WHOA it’s a game changer! It’s definitely a splurge but it might be my new favorite beverage of all time.

Tessamae’s Salad Dressing

Salad dressing is another thing that I tried to make during previous rounds. I did… ok. Honestly, I didn’t really try that hard… but I don’t really eat a lot of salads, so it was ok! But for some reason this round I made a lot of recipes that used salad dressing, so this was the perfect option. My Whole Foods had a TON of their flavors and I highly recommend the Avocado Ranch!

Tessamae’s BBQ Sauce

How many times do you need to hear me say that I FAILED at making my own sugar-free BBQ sauce? One more? Ok. It was terrible and did not taste good and I still ate it because #budget and it was just miserable. This was the best money I spent during the entire Whole30.

Tessamae’s Ketchup

Same with the BBQ sauce above, buying sugar-free ketchup is the way to go for me. I don’t think I even tried to make this because I just knew that it would be a failure and not worth my time. Just go to Whole Foods and get you some. It’s worth it!

Applegate Bacon

This is a no-brainer. You have to have bacon!! Or at least, I do! My mouth is watering just thinking about this savory, delicious bacon right now. I really tried to only have the bacon when I made scrambled eggs for breakfast because it is definitely on the more expensive side, but it made my breakfast meals so much yummier!

Snap Kitchen

Ok so this really isn’t a food staple that I buy and keep on hand during my Whole30, but knowing that I can go there and grab a Whole30-compliant meal on the go is SO AMAZING. You can eat them there, but it’s more common to take it with you and eat at home or at work. It’s expensive, but it’s SO convenient! Sometimes a recipe doesn’t turn out or you just need something fast, and I’m so glad that I have this healthy eatery so close to me!

My Favorite Whole30 Recipes (and a few I only tolerated)

One thing that I wanted to do during my most recent Whole30 was cook a lot, and cook GOOD food. In previous rounds I ate pretty ok food… but it was never anything that I LOVED and honestly it felt very boring. My food was very boring. And I did NOT want to do that again. So I told myself that I could only make new-to-me recipes this go-round and it turned out so well!! I ended up eating SUCH GOOD FOOD for the most part and I feel like I really expanded my skills in the kitchen, too!

I kept a detailed list of all the food I made during the Whole30 process (and included my own notes along the way!) and I wanted to share the ones I really loved, ones I liked and would still make again, and the ones that I’m glad I tried but just kind of tolerated. It can be so daunting to plan for a Whole30 and try to think about what you’re going to make and eat, and hopefully this list can help inspire you to do some more cooking during your next round!

Chicken Alfredo Bake

This was the first meal I made and it was… not my favorite. I don’t know if it was because it was my first few days doing Whole30 or because I’m not the biggest fan of zoodles or because I was wanting a creamy alfredo sauce and instead made “alfredo” sauce out of cauliflower… whatever the reason, I chose not to repeat this recipe. If I do try to make it again, I’ll definitely wait till I’m toward the end of the 30 days and my taste buds are more used to healthier flavors.

Sweet Potato Chicken Poppers

These were so good! I loved eating them with some homemade guacamole. Mine weren’t all consistent in size and I used ground turkey instead of ground chicken because that’s what my grocery store had, but they still tasted great.

Chicken Salad

I love love LOVE a good chicken salad, and I’m so glad I still got to eat it while doing Whole30. I actually made this twice, one time using store-bought compliant mayo, and another time having made my own… and both tasted great! I love taking a big scoop of chicken salad and eating it on a bed of lettuce – so good!

Turkey Taco Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

This was really good, BUT it says that it’s a 20-minute meal and I swear I was cooking mine for at least 45 minutes. I also maimed the sweet potato shells and ruined those, so I ended up just mixing up the sweet potato innards with the filling and it was very good!

Spice Crusted Steak

This was so delicious. It was what I made for a “yay I’m halfway done!” meal and I wish I had made 20 servings instead of just 4!

Orange Chicken

Ok. This orange chicken. It ended up being a lot more effort than I originally expected (you know, more effort than picking up the phone and ordering orange chicken from down the street, lol) but it was REALLY delicious! The directions on the website seemed to lack a few details, but I made this a second time and it went a lot faster and smoother after having made it before.

Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Peppers

Very spicy but very delicious! I only bought two peppers but used the entire filling recipe, and so I had 4 very large servings. I cut up the peppers before re-heating to eat and made them bite size chunks… and realistically I probably could have split into 6 servings and still been really satisfied.

Waldorf Tuna Salad

This was way better than I thought! The fact that it used tuna kind of weirded me out at first for some reason, but I’m really glad I made it and tried it. It made 3 really large servings, and next time I’ll probably split it up into 4.

Beef with Broccoli

This recipe was just ok to me. I feel like most people would like it, though! I don’t think I was in the mood for eating beef and so I didn’t really enjoy it. I might try to make it again during my next Whole30 and see if I like it any better.

Turkey Taco Meatballs

I didn’t make any notes about these, so I guess that means they were just fine! They’d be great for a party if you needed to make little bites to share. I bought the chipotle mayo from Whole Foods and those flavors went really well together!

BBQ Burgers

This recipe calls for bison, but I used regular ol’ ground beef and they tasted really good. I also couldn’t find the Tessamae’s brand bbq sauce at the store, so I bought a different Whole30 compliant bbq sauce. Just full disclosure. Also just go ahead and buy the bbq sauce. I’ve tried to make my own in the past and it did NOT turn out well! Not good!

Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Everybody loves a good sweet potato fry! These always take longer to bake than I anticipate… and part of that might be because my oven is kind of slowly dying and the heat is never consistent… but… that’s ok! They still came out delicious and made my lunches so much better!

The ONLY Sugar Cookie Recipe You Need

Just trust me on this one – this is the BEST sugar cookie recipe I’ve tried, and I’ve tried a LOT of them! It makes a ton, it tastes delicious (both baked and raw because you know I eat at least 2 cookies-worth of dough and so do you), and it HOLDS ITS SHAPE while baking which if you’ve ever made cut-out sugar cookies, you know that is the dream right there!

I went to a bachelorette weekend over the long Memorial Day weekend and decided to bring some cookies along with me. I used this tried and true recipe and y’all… they turned out AWESOME! Yes the icing is the best part, but the cookie just tastes so good, too. There were even some “professional” decorated sugar cookies at the bridal shower that weekend, and I dare say that mine tasted WAY better. (The other girls said the same thing, so just trust me and make this recipe ASAP!)

Big Batch Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups butter, room-temperature
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
6 cups flour

Instructions:
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.
Add eggs and vanilla and mix together.
Mix dry ingredients and add to the butter mixture, mix well.
Chill for 1 hour.
Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness and cut with cookie cutters.
Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Cool 2 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to cool completely on wire racks.

Some notes on the recipe!!

I usually end up baking them for about 8 minutes and 30 seconds. You don’t want then to bake for too long or they’ll get to crunchy. When you take them out of the oven, they might look like they still need some cooking time but trust me, they’ll be perfect once they cool.

Make sure you chill the dough for at least the full hour! It makes the dough easier to roll out and helps the dough keep its shape while baking.

Try REALLY hard to get the dough rolled out evenly and to the right height. Too thin and the cookie will be too crispy, too thick and it will be too soft.

Bake the cookies on parchment paper! I just find it to be helpful.

Each time I make these cookies it seems to be a little different, but add the last cup of flour VERY SLOWLY. Sometimes I need the full 6 cups, sometimes the dough seems perfect at 5 3/4 cups. Just keep mixing until all the dough is incorporated and there aren’t any dry bits at the bottom.

Because you chilled the dough FOR THE FULL HOUR, the cookies won’t really spread when baking, so you don’t need to spread them out too far on the baking sheet.

I’ve actually shared this recipe before, but it’s just so good that it demanded to be shared AGAIN!!! The previous post also had a recipe for glaze, but don’t use that one because I’ve updated how I make it and how I use it and I plan on making another, more detailed post about that in the next few weeks or so.