I went into this challenge thinking that it would be the most difficult month of my life. I envisioned myself having to be dragged out of bakeries with my claws dipped in chocolate and sugar. I considered taking tranquilizers so that I could sleep through my cravings. I assumed that I would be so frustrated that I would yell obscenities at innocent strangers eating pizza on the street.
But, in reality, Whole30 has been kind of easy.
Okay, easy isn’t the right word. Whole30 has required A LOT of planning. And cooking. As much as I love to cook, it gets tiresome to spend six hours on the weekend meal prepping. Yes, I could get around that by eating very simple meals like plain meat with plain veggies for three meals a day, like this blogger. But I like food and flavor way too much to do that. I would rather starve than succumb to including raw baby carrots as a centerpiece in my lunch.
Also, I am not superhuman. I indeed have had cravings for pastries and bread. But typically, that has happened only when I walk into a bakery to buy a coffee. Which is totally my fault. That’s like an alcoholic walking into a bar to order a soda water. Don’t test yourself too much, kids.
But it’s Day 20 now and I feel pretty in control of my cravings. The richness of my meals (i.e., hearty meats and fatty fish, eggs, coconut milk, sweet potatoes, avocados, nuts) generally leaves me extremely satisfied. Yes, I still want something sweet after dinner, but an apple or frozen banana with almond butter and cinnamon has generally been sufficient to curb my sweet tooth/teeth.
Speaking of hearty meals, here’s a look at some of the meals I whipped up during Week 3 of Whole30.
First, I cooked a Thai Pumpkin Curry that made about 12 glorious servings (feel free to halve if you’re not feeding a herd). It was one of the tastiest meals I’ve ever made, and I highly recommend you try it. Whole30 or not, it’s dericious, creamy and rich. Chock full of aromatics, chilies, and spices, this curry is representative of my favorite way to cook meals that are bursting with flavor. If you’re curious about other ways in which I add flavor to my meals, check out my earlier posts on maximizing flavor here and here.
I ate this curry on its own, but it would be even better served over cauliflower mash or cauliflower rice (recipes for both can be found here).
Thai Pumpkin Curry
- 2 pounds of organic, free-range chicken thighs
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- black pepper to taste
- 1.5 TBSP coconut oil or ghee
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 TBSP freshly grated ginger
- 2 onions, chopped
- 4 Thai bird’s eyes chilies, slit but kept intact
- 4 TBSP red or yellow curry paste
- 1.5 cups canned, full-fat coconut milk
- 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- large pinch of cayenne pepper
- pinch of ground cinnamon
- 1-2 TBSP Red Boat fish sauce
- Leftover roasted butternut squash
- 1/4-1/2 cup of chicken stock
- 36 ounces of frozen vegetables (I used frozen broccoli)
- 2 TBSP of unsweetened 100% apple juice
- Lime juice to serve
- Cilantro, minced, to serve
- Gather your ingredients.
- Cut chicken thighs into medium chunks and season with salt and pepper.
- Heat oil or ghee in a Dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil is shiny, add the chicken. Brown the chicken on both sides. Remove chicken from pan.
Add the frozen veggies, fish sauce and apple juice.
Increase the heat to high. Bring contents of pan to a boil. Then, turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the veggies are warmed through and the flavors have combined.
Serve with a few squeezes of lime juice and cilantro.
Our next hearty meal for Week 3 was a pressure-cooker chili con carne that we found on SeriousEats.com. This dish takes just an hour in your pressure cooker and it couldn’t be easier. It’s rich, hearty, and dare I say…decadent?
Though most chili recipes you’ll find call for beans, an authentic Texas chile is simply meat, chiles, and more meat. With that in mind, be sure to use a grass-fed or organic cut of beef if you’re following Whole30.
We made a few alterations to the SeriousEats recipe, so I’ve included what I used below. For the future, I would definitely add a bit of raw cacao powder or cocoa powder. The sweetness of the cocoa balances out the spiciness of the chili and gives it an even richer, more luxurious taste.
Serious East Chili Con Carne
- 3 whole sweet fresh dried chilies like Costeño, New Mexico, or Choricero, stems and seeds removed (we used New Mexico)
- 2 small hot dried chilies like Arbol or Cascabel, stems and seeds removed (we used Arbol)
- 3 whole rich fruity dried chilies like Ancho, Mulatto, Negro, or Pasilla, stems and seeds removed (we used Ancho)
- 1 1/2 quarts chicken stock or broth
- 2 whole Chipotle dried chilies canned in adobo sauce, plus 2 tablespoons sauce, stems and seeds removed
- 4 pounds whole beef chuck, trimmed of excess gristle and fat, cut into 1.5 inch cubes (we used a combination of grass-fed beef brisket and beef chuck, but you could also use stew meat)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 TBSP coconut oil
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 1 green bell pepper, finely diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp powdered cinnamon
- 1 TBSP ground cumin
- 1/8 tsp cloves
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 TBSP Red Boat fish sauce, plus more to taste
- 2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
- 2 TBSP unsweetened 100% apple juice
- Hot sauce, to taste
- Get your medical gloves or kitchen gloves out. Put them on. If you fail to follow this step, you will get hot chilies in your eyes and die. Cut the chilies open and remove the stems and seeds.
- Place the dried chilies on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high power in 15-second increments until pliable and toasted-smelling, about 30 seconds total. Transfer to a 2-quart microwave-safe liquid measuring cup or bowl. Add chicken broth and chipotle chilies, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high power until gently simmering, about 5 minutes. Remove from microwave and set aside.
- Season cubes of meat generously with salt and pepper. Heat oil in the base of an electric or stovetop pressure cooker over high heat until just starting to smoke. Add half of beef in a single layer and cook without moving until deeply browned. Flip meat and brown second side.
Add onion and pepper to pressure cooker and cook, stirring frequently until onion is translucent and vegetables are softened. Add garlic, cinnamon, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, and oregano, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the soaked chilies and the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Transfer mixture to the jar of a blender. Blend, starting on the lowest possible setting and gradually increasing speed to high (make sure to hold the lid down with a clean kitchen towel or a potholder to prevent it from blowing out). Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Return purée to the pressure cooker.
Add the chunks of beef to the pressure cooker. Bring to a simmer, season gently with salt and pepper, seal pressure cooker, and cook on high pressure for 30 minutes.
Release pressure using quick release valve on an electric cooker or running under cold water for a stovetop cooker. Remove lid. Stir in fish sauce, apple juice, and vinegar. Add hot sauce to taste. Simmer until thickened to desired consistency, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt. For best results, allow chili to cool and store in the refrigerator at least overnight and up to five days. Reheat the next day to serve and top with avocado and cilantro.
After eating rich, hearty curries and stews this week, I was ready for something a bit lighter. Enter fish. Salmon and mango avocado salsa is one of the best combinations around and is an easy meal that you could even prepare on a weeknight.
I served mine with broccolini in a tahini sauce. A perfect and complete meal.
Salmon with Mango Avocado Salsa
- 1 cup diced mango
- 1/2 large avocado, diced
- large handful of cherry tomatoes, diced
- 1/4 of a red onion, diced
- 2 TBSP chopped cilantro
- 1 small jalapeño, diced
- juice of 1 large lime, separated
- red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 wild salmon fillets, 4-6 oz. each
- ground cumin to taste
- ghee or coconut oil
- Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease the bottom of a pie dish or baking pan with ghee or coconut oil.
- Add salmon fillets to dish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cumin to taste. Squeeze lime juice on salmon and drizzle with ghee or coconut oil.
- Bake salmon in oven for approximately 10 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork. You may need to cook 3-5 minutes longer if your fillets are thick.
- Make salsa while salmon is cooking. Toss mango, avocado, tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeño in a bowl. Add juice from 1/2 of the lime, salt and pepper to taste, and red pepper flakes. Toss until well combined.
- Serve salmon fillets with generous serving of mango avocado salsa.
Broccolini with Ginger-Garlic Tahini Sauce
Serves 2 as a large side dish, 4 as a small side dish
- 8 ounces baby broccoli or broccolini
- 2 TBSP tahini paste (the only ingredient should be tahini, or ground sesame seeds)
- 1 tsp fresh minced ginger,
- 1 very small garlic clove, finely minced
- 1/4 tsp coconut aminos (or soy sauce if you’re not on Whole30)
- 2 TBSP unsweetened 100% apple juice
- 1/2 TBSP apple cider or red wine vinegar
- 1/2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
- 1 TBSP warm water, or more to achieve desired consistency
- salt and pepper to taste
- Sesame seeds for garnish
- Blanch the broccolini: Bring a pot of unsalted water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath (a large bowl of cold water with ice).
- If the broccolini stems are thick, slice the spear vertically in half.
- Once the water is boiling, add the broccolini. Blanch for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and drain in a colander. Immediately transfer broccolini to the ice bath to stop cooking and retain the vibrant green color.
- To prepare tahini sauce, add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk with a fork until thoroughly combined. Add more warm water if tahini sauce is too thick.
- To serve, place broccolini on serving plate. Drizzle with tahini sauce and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
Are you hungry yet? Get to cooking!