My Whole 30 Recap – Live & Learn

Uvita Sunset

Hola Amigos!

I just returned from a transformative week in gorgeous Uvita, Costa Rica where I was living la pura vida and working at an event called Envision Festival.

As you may recall from my last blog post, I was a little apprehensive about going on vacation and sticking to the plan.  I left on day 22 of my Whole 30, which is a strict Paleo diet of no grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, or alcohol. It’s really necessary to know all the ingredients in all the food you’re eating, however I wasn’t preparing my own food – I was being fed from the staff cafe at the event.  All the food was lovingly prepared and nutritious. I always felt so very taken care of by them even when I repeatedly said, “No grains, no, not even rice, and no cheese or beans, si, no frijoles… no gracias, and no tortillas for my tacos. Just the fish (or the eggs), veggies, and that amazing banana salsa… si, si esta bien. Muchas Gracias!”

As I said, I was feeling nourished and had abundant energy despite working 8 or more hours each day. It was on my 3rd day at the event – day 25 of my whole 30 – that I found out that the eggs I’d been eating for breakfast were cooked with cream.  I was pretty bummed when I found out and I really had no other choice but to eat them or not eat enough protein and go hungry.  I was mulling in my disappointment for a while because I not only let myself down, I felt like I let down everyone who I’d talked to about the Whole 30. I know, I am way too hard on myself. Even though it was out of my control, I was still trying to figure out how I would communicate what happened and I figured taking responsibility would be the best way of restoring integrity. So here I am, coming clean. I’m not perfect and I did not make it all the way through my first Whole 30.

And, here’s where it gets interesting… I don’t know if anyone else is like me or would have done what I did next, but when I found out that my plan had been stifled, and after I’d gotten over my disappointment of failure, I felt a sense of relief. I gave myself a pass and later that evening allowed myself to imbibe alcohol… home made orange flavored absinthe, to be exact. From that point forward, I let go of the whole 30 and allowed myself to enjoy what was left of my (working) vacation… which included a few super delicious coconut cacao smoothies, a chimichanga (after which I felt totally ill), and some tequila in the following nights. Was there guilt? Yes. Why? I blame my high standards and thick conscious. But, can anyone sympathize? What would you have done, how would you have felt, if you were in my zapatos?

Alas, it is through experience that we live and learn… and this is what I took away from my time in Costa Rica:

  • A strict diet, while on vacation, is absolutely masochistic;
  • Never turn down home made absinthe or cacao smoothies;
  • We’re all imperfect, we all make mistakes, and that’s okay as long as we learn from them;
  • No matter how hard you try, you can’t please everyone;
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself when a situation is out of your control;
  • Pick yourself back up by your bootstraps and start over.

I did the best I could with what I had and since I’ve been home, I am (mostly) back to the plan… well that was, until this past Saturday when I was at a wedding in Napa and had peanut butter cake, champagne, and copious amounts of wine. Did I feel sick later? Oh yes… another lesson of live and learn.

Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot about my relationship with food during my Whole 30 (or Whole 25, rather) and I am pretty proud of the difference I feel because of it. I know what makes me feel vibrant and happy and what makes me feel unhealthy and irritable.  Not to mention, take a look at my numbers! As of right now, since Tuesday, February 5th I have lost:

  • 12 pounds;
  • 2 inches from around my bust;
  • 1 inch from around my waist;
  • 2 inches from around my hips;
  • 1 inch from around each of my thighs.


Do I have it all figured out? Nope, but I’m content with taking it day by day.

Am I getting back on the Whole 30 train? Yes, I’ll do it again… that is, sometime after next weekend’s company trip to Tahoe…

Live and Learn.

As always, your thoughts are welcomed in the comments section below.


italian marinated eggplant & my whole 30 week 3 recap

melanzane sottolio
Me: I did it!
You: What have you done?
Me: I’ve completed my third week of the Whole 30! I’ve cruised through the half way point, even went out to eat and found something on the menu to suit me without a hitch. I’m feeling absolutely incredible physically, mentally, and emotionally, and now I’m headed to an awesome festival in Costa Rica for the next 8 days and I intend to stick to the plan!

[Screeching halt of breaks. A spotlight centers on the dialogue bubbles.]

You: How do you intend to do that… there?
Me: I don’t really know…
But I’m trying my best to figure out how!
I’ve packed a bunch of nuts and some other Whole 30 approved dry goods, I plan to hit a fruit stand on my way to the event to get some avocados and other tropical deliciousness, and then I hope that they’ll be serving fresh caught fish and other tasty grilled meats once I’m there. I won’t have a way to cook for myself but I have no problem asking for what I need and a majority of the people I will be with eat healthy too.

I just really hope I can resist the nectar of the agave gods while I’m down there. Good tequila is my weakness. Instead, I will drink in the sunrises and sunsets and imbibe the high vibes of all the other party goers. This will be the greatest test of will I’ve ever faced in this lifetime and it will certainly be nothing short of phenomenal. Wish me luck!

Bet you thought I was going to play the tequila song, didn’t you? Psych! I grew up on the Eagles so this is what song comes to mind first when I think about that muy bueno inebriant that makes me feel so muy bueno… lest I digress.

So, on to this week’s recipe!

I’ve been craving a burger and was wondering what I could use in place of a bun, then this recipe came to mind…
When I lived in Italy and worked in the kitchen of Casa Cares, this was a favorite of mine. In Italian, it’s called “melanzane sott’olio” which literally translates to eggplant (or aubergine, depending where you hail from) under oil. It’s simple to prepare yet it takes time, most of which is inactive, but it’s so tasty it’s so very worth it.
marinated eggplant ingredients
Italian Marinated Eggplant (aka Melanzane Sott’olio)

Prep time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Active prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 2 hours 45 minutes
Serves 4-6

1 large eggplant (about 1 pound)
¾ cup chopped italian parsley
3 cloves chopped garlic
2 cups extra virgin olive oil

  • Slice the eggplant into half inch thick rounds. It’s important they’re all the same thickness so they roast evenly. In a mixing bowl, place one layer then salt them, add another layer and salt, and another until all the rounds are in the bowl with salt on them. Let them sit for 2 hours or more to allow the salt to leach the water out of them.
  • When 2 hours are up, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  • Oil the bottom of a baking sheet (preferably non stick), drain the water from the bowl and arrange the eggplant in a single layer.
  • Roast for 30 minutes then flip each piece and roast for another 10 minutes. During that 10 minute interval, chop the garlic and parsley.
  • Find a dish with a lid and, one layer at a time, add a piece of eggplant, sprinkle with garlic and parsley, drizzle with oil, until you’ve added all the pieces, then cover with oil.
  • Cover and let marinate for at least an hour, then serve.

*Because there is raw garlic in this dish, I recommend eating it within a few days or else it goes bad. No need for botulism here!

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Since I will be in Costa Rica next week through the weekend, I won’t be able to post my regularly scheduled blog but I am going to try to continue making daily updates to my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so you can peep my adventures there.

Hope you enjoy and have fun cooking!

cashew cauliflower rice & week 2 of my whole 30

Some highlights from this past week (left to right):
Breakfast – Two pastured eggs, basted medium, over a bed of kale sauteed in coconut oil and cashew cauliflower rice;
Lunch – A salad of organic spinach greens, steamed yams, shredded beets and purple cabbage, plum tomatoes, pepitas, and baked chicken breast tenders tossed in my savory herb vinaigrette (sans the tamari);
Dinner – Seared ahi tuna steaks smothered in sunshine sauce over a bed of cashew cauliflower rice with a side of steamed broccoli and plum tomatoes.

Second week of my Whole 30 is behind me and I have to admit, it was tougher than my first week.

The most difficult thing about this week was my digestion. I took solace in the fact that this was to be expected – as the Hartwigs mention in their book, It Starts With Food, it can take a couple weeks or more for the body to get “fat adapted” and in the meantime there can be various side effects including digestive issues. However, now as I round the corner into my third week, things are moving along smoothly (pun intended).

Speaking of noticeable benefits this past week, I’ve had super steady energy throughout my long work days, I’ve been sleeping like a rock, and waking up early without my alarm… loving it!

Over the past week, I’ve received several requests for my cashew cauliflower rice recipe so here it is – so incredibly simple, delicious, and a great base for sauces and other gooey things (like runny eggs), you can spice it up any which way you like by adding other spices, herbs, veggies, or even dried fruit to satiate your sweet tooth.

cashew cauliflower rice-ingredients
Cashew Cauliflower Rice
tweaked from a Well Fed recipe

Prep time: 2 minutes
Ready in: 25 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

1 head of cauliflower
1 cup of raw cashews
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
dash of salt
sprinkle of pepper

    • Break up the head of cauliflower into florets and blend in food processor for 15 seconds on low, then another 5-10 seconds on medium or high – just until it reaches a grainy looking consistency. Be careful not to over blend or else it will get mushy.
    • Toast the cashews in a hot cast iron skillet or heavy pan turning every 30 seconds until nice and brown – about 5 minutes.
    • Add the coconut oil, letting it melt, then add the cauliflower and sautée on high heat stirring every minute or so until some of the moisture cooks out and it starts to get toasty – about 15 minutes.
    • Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

Seriously, it’s that easy! If you’re prepping for the week, it keeps super well in the fridge and reheats nicely and gets even more toasty after just a couple minutes in a skillet on the stovetop – no additional oil necessary!

Check out my daily Whole 30 updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and have fun cooking!

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cashew cauliflower rice
As always, your thoughts and questions are welcomed in the comments section below.

My Whole 30 – Week 1 Recap

I’m happy to say I made it through my first week of The Whole 30 with shining success! No grain, no pain!

I’ve had sustained energy and an extremely steady mood. I’ve known for some time how gluten and wheat caused me to have mood swings, but in the past week, in addition to being quite chipper for no reason, my chronic back pain has dissipated and my skin is perfectly clear and evenly toned – radiant! It’s crazy to think that the foods we eat release hormones that can cause our bodies to act against us. As described in the book I reviewed last week, everything we eat sends messages through our body and when we eat things like dairy, sugar, grains, and alcohol especially, our bodies struggle to balance it out, releasing insulin and leptin and a whole bunch of other hormones just in order to not get sick.

All our bodies want to do is feel good, naturally. With the way I’ve been eating the past week, I intrinsically feel like my body is not at war with food and it’s thanking me for taking better care of it by being way more alert, steady, and ridiculously happy for no reason! Like earlier today, I had a Michael Jackson dance party in my kitchen for no particular reason! I mean, well it IS Michael – care to join me for another?

Now THAT is good cooking music!
And I have been cooking a LOT – I have turned on the burner for almost every meal over the past 6 days. I’ve been trying out some new recipes (with some epic wins and some semi fails) but mostly have been making “hot bowls” – a mishmash of sauteed veggies with a generous serving of protein mixed in. I also started a new exciting full-time job with a very fun company this past week and have been pretty busy with that, so I’m happy that “hot bowls” are so easy to make.

Day 1 breakfast: 3 pastured eggs cooked with organic red onion, broccoli and spices in coconut oil, topped with guacamole and fresh diced roma tomato. Black coffee on the side.whole30-Day1bf

Day 2 lunch: Organic spinach salad with chicken breast, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, pepitas & my savory herb vinaigrette.Whole30-Day2lunch

Day 3 lunch: Curried onions and red peppers with chicken and cashews on a bed of coconut sauteed kale.Whole30-Day3lunch

Day 4 dinner: Big winner! Onion, garlic, lamb burger topped with grilled red peppers and guacamole on a bed of spinach surrounded by steamed broccoli and carrots. YUM! Then again, in case you didn’t know, I LOVE lamb.Whole30-Day4dinner

Day 5 breakfast – I scrambled 2 pastured eggs with onions, peppers, and spinach, then topped it off with fresh plum tomatoes and guacamole. I also made home brewed coconut cream chai and savored a medley of blueberries and macadamia nuts. Easy and delicious.Whole30-Day5bf

Today, Day 6, I went grocery shopping to stock up for the next week. I bought a wide variety of organic produce and sustainable organic meats and spent around $100 for what I’m hoping will last me the next week and a half. Following the advice in the Well Fed Paleo Cookbook, I prepped a bunch of stuff this evening to help make meal prep easy and seamless throughout my upcoming busy week.Whole30-Day6mealprepThe fun included baking 2 pounds of organic chicken breast tenders that I can use in salads or toss into stir fry or other hot bowls throughout the week. I shredded cabbage and beets and steamed a large yam. I made cauliflower rice (a recipe from Well Fed) and added cashews. I made more of my savory herb vinaigrette (sans the tamari since no soy) and whipped up a jar of spicy salsa fresca. I did all this prep in under an hour! I feel like I’m ready to rock out another week!

I’m not gonna lie – over the past week, though I’ve been fully satisfied and never hungry between meals – I’ve had subtle cravings, specifically for wine and chocolate.
I’m a single woman in my 30’s, go figure.
However, I’ve resisted the temptation and leaned on ginger tea and blueberries in my times of need.

Feel free to follow my daily activity on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. And I’m happy to explain any of my technique or go into more depth for any of the dishes above. Please leave your questions in the comments section below.

Thanks for reading and have fun cooking!

Austin was fun and now begins my Whole 30

eating and drinking in Austin

I just returned from spending a long weekend in Austin, Texas where I ate and drank and ate and drank and danced and sang around campfires and drank some more. It was a glorious, gluttonous time…

But that’s over now.


On the plane, I read a book titled It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. I give it two thumbs way up.

They talk about all the “science-y stuff” around food – the hormones different foods cause, how they affect your brain and your gut, about leptin and insulin and chronic inflammation, and about so many common diseases and how they are so often – if not always – related to the food we eat. The best part is that they say it all in such a simple (and amusing) way, it’s so easy to understand and be inspired by.

And I am inspired.

The Whole 30 is the plan they created, based on their backgrounds in nutrition, anatomy, and physiology, and from their personal experiences. The Whole 30 is a thirty day “nutritional reset designed to restore a healthy metabolism, heal your digestive tract, calm systemic inflammation and put an end to unhealthy cravings, habits, and relationships with food”… because heaven knows, after this past weekend (and past several months in general), I need it.

It’s based around the Paleo way of eating and starting today, I am eliminating the following things from my diet:

  • All Grains (including corn and quinoa)
  • Dairy (even the goat variety, but clarified butter is okay)
  • Legumes (except green beans and snap peas)
  • Sugar (not even stevia)
  • Alcohol (ouch)

What I will be consuming via 3 meals a day, 5-6 hours apart is:

  • Organic, grass fed, and pastured meat and eggs (about 25% of my diet)
  • Lots and lots of organic vegetables (about 45%)
  • Some fruits (about 10%)
  • Certain oils, nuts, and fats like avocado, olives, and coconut (about 20%)
  • One morning cup of coffee, black (like Jack Kerouac)

Do I sound completely bonkers?  I’m actually really excited to see what results after 30 days of this! I have a feeling it’s going to rock my world. I have a few other friends riding The Whole 30 train with me and personally know others who rave about it, so that support will be helpful… especially on Friday when I get home from work and all I want to unwind is a glass of wine… not so cheers.

Lest I get ahead of myself.

The rest of the book details meal planning and grocery lists.  I went shopping this evening and spent about $50 on what I hope will last me a week. If you’re interested in it, check out the book and their website for more detailed info.

I’m now coming to completion of day one and I feel fantastic. I’ve had sustained energy throughout my work day and no cravings between meals. For breakfast this morning, I sauteed onions and broccoli in coconut oil, scrambled in 3 pastured eggs, salt and pepper, then topped it with a dollop of guacamole and one diced roma tomato. With my coffee on the side, it was super yum!


Day one done, only 29 more to go… I’ll keep you updated as to my progress by posting here and on my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’d love to hear your recipe ideas and support each other if you decide to embark on The Whole 30 for yourself.

Best of luck!

And as always, your thoughts are welcomed in the comments section below.

spicy coconut pumpkin soup

Tis the season for pumpkin! And nasty colds…

There’s no better way to keep your immune system strong than indulging in this spicy soup. Pumpkin is rich in antioxidants and Vitamin A; Coconut helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels, is good for the heart, and assists in proper digestion; Served over a cup of cooked quinoa, this gluten and dairy free *vegan dish offers complete protein.

Ever wondered how to chop an onion and not break down sobbing? Well, here’s the trick – after you cut the ends off and remove the outermost layer, slice it in half on the vertical and rinse it in cold water. Then go about your chop without a teardrop!

I learned another method from the cook I worked with in Italy. She said that if your eyes start to water, hold a piece of bread in your mouth. I’m not sure about the science of this one but it has worked, however not in cases where the tears have been streaming for very long. Do what works for you and if you have your own secret, please do reveal!

Another trick I learned from a friend which changed my world was how to peel ginger using a spoon. Before learning this, I always cut the skin off the ginger which resulted in losing a lot of usable root in the process. Using a spoon, apply just enough pressure to the surface to penetrate the skin and peel it as if it were a sweet potato. So easy!

There is a lot of spice in this recipe, between the serrano peppers, ginger, and the red curry paste, but I promise you it’s not too much – just enough to ignite your inner fire and keep you healthy and warm during the wet or cold months.

Spicy Coconut Pumpkin Soup

Prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 50 minutes
Serves 4

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 small yellow onion (about ½ cup chopped)
2 serrano peppers (about ½ cup sliced)
¼ cup chopped fresh ginger
3 medium cloves chopped garlic
1 tablespoon salt
2 (15 ounce) cans of pumpkin puree (or make your own)
1 (14 ounce) can of coconut cream or milk
2 cups chicken or *vegetable broth (vegan option)
1 tablespoon Thai Kitchen red curry paste
¾ cup chopped cilantro
1 lime

In a heavy large pot, melt the coconut oil then add the onion, peppers, and ginger and sauté over medium-high heat.

After 5 minutes, add the garlic and salt and stir frequently for another 5 minutes until the garlic is fragrant. Turn to medium heat and mix in the coconut cream until it’s smooth.

Add the red curry paste and stir until it dissolves, turning the contents a pink color.

Next, mix in the pumpkin and broth. Cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, you can make the quinoa and listen to this fun little ditty…

When time’s up, remove from heat and add all ingredients to a food processor or blender, or use a hand blender to liquefy all the ingredients, blending in ½ cup of the cilantro.

Let cool and thicken for 10-15 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

Divide among bowls, adding cooked quinoa if desired, garnish with remaining cilantro and a generous squeeze of lime, and serve.

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Your thoughts are welcomed in the comments section below.