Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti with Chicken-Herb Meatballs (Whole30 Compliant!)

This is my second time around doing Whole30, and I'm starting to get into the rhythm of cooking in this style of food AKA super insanely healthy. This spaghetti squash spaghetti is a great recipe because it's reeeeeeal yummy, ridiculously healthy and easy to prep. The key is to double (or triple!) the recipe to have leftovers for lunches or another dinner. Or make a ton of the meatballs and freeze a batch of them to have for another meal. This is a great family dinner!

Spaghetti Squash Ingredients:
- 1-2 Spaghetti Squash
- Olive Oil

Method:
1.) The easiest way to cook a spaghetti squash is to place the squash on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Then rotate the squash, and bake for another 30 minutes. Once it's finished, slice the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp.
2.) After scooping those out, use a fork to "fluff" the noodles out from the squash. Place these in a bowl and set aside.

Chicken-Herb Meatball Ingredients:
- 1 lb. ground chicken
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/4 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp. minced herbs (I used a mix of rosemary, thyme and oregano)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 2 tbsp. olive oil

Method:
1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.) Combine the chicken, egg, onion, garlic, herbs and salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Roll 15-20 meatballs, each one approximately the size of a golf ball.
3.) Heat a large skillet over medium-high and drizzle with olive oil. Once pan is hot, add a batch of meatballs (you might have to do this in several batches, depending on the size of your skillet). Turn each one every 30 seconds, until it is evenly browned all over. This should take about 5 minutes total. Transfer the meatballs to the prepared baking sheet and place in the oven for 8 minutes. Let meatballs rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Top noodles with your favorite spaghetti sauce (after doing the homemade work for the noodles and meatballs, I don't dare prepare my own spaghetti sauce, too. I like to use the Costco or Whole Foods brands because they are Whole30-compliant and delicious.) Top with meatballs and fresh oregano or parsley. Bon Appetit!

P.S. - More about my Whole30 journey here.

Life After Whole30 (+ My 3 Biggest Takeaways)

Life after Whole30 is weird.

It's actually kind of ruined my life. But in a really wholesome kind of way. Because the Whole30 discipline is such a healthy way to approach food and fitness and overall health, and it holds a really high standard for what should be put in our bodies. It was so so hard when I was in the midst of the 30 days of no sugar, no bread, no alcohol, constant meal prep and kitchen cleaning and ugh - I felt like the days went by so slowly. And I felt like this way of eating was just so enormously time-consuming and not realistic for our day and age. So many times, I remember feeling sorry for the pioneer women. Because I had the realization that this was their life - cooking and cleaning up for their families. Preparing everything from scratch. Dirtying practically every dish in their pantry and then having to clean every dish - over and over and over again. It felt monotonous. It felt archaic. It felt like sacrifice. It felt like a crap-ton of work. And life is already work. So yeah, I had some low moments, in the midst of Whole30. And that doesn't even include the mood swings from detoxing from all the sugar and caffeine and happy breads.

But this strange thing was happening during all the whining and complaining and headaches and longing for sweets and wines and sweet wines. I was starting to feel a surprising amount of goodness. I was sleeping hard. I was waking up early, with no grogginess. My workouts were strong. My mind was clear. I just felt an intense amount of clarity, like the chaos in my mind was being detoxed along with with the unhealthy foods. So as much as I hated the meal prep, I was starting to really love the feeling of wholeness.

My biggest, most positive takeaways from my Whole30 experience:

1. I think about what I put in my mouth.
Whole30 taught me to read the labels on my food products. Instead of grabbing something because it says "organic" or "all-natural" and thinking that meant it was the healthiest choice, Whole30 taught me to read the labels and decipher the ingredients. There are so many sneaky sugars, preservatives, emulsifiers and chemicals that are in normal, everyday foods. You might think that sounds like propaganda - it's not. Do your research. Don't trust me for a minute - do your own research. The findings are pretty appalling. And once you learn something - you can't unlearn it. And that's what happened to me. Once I understood what soy lecithin and carrageenan actually are, I was much more motivated to find items that simply don't have those ingredients in them. And healthier options do exist, it just takes a little time to find them. The first time I went to the grocery store with a Whole30 list in hand, it took me over two hours to get out of the store. And no, I didn't have my toddler with me. It is just so time-consuming, reading every ingredient on every label of every item. It was exhausting. But now that I've done that work, I simply revisit those same items in the store, and my grocery trip are under 30 minutes now. So even though the process was time-consuming and overwhelming, it paid off with healthier choices that I am able to continuously make, now that I know my options.

2. I realize that everything is way too sweet.
My taste buds had been warped. And I'm going to be bold enough to suggest that yours are probably warped, too. Don't take it personal. It's not really our fault. It's been a slow process of eating "normal food" our entire lives and not knowing what is in it. Our taste buds have been warped because everything has so much sugar in it - like everything. Ketchup, crackers, barbecue sauce, lunch meat, bread, etc. And that's not even the stuff that we know has sugar in it, like cereal and alcohol. And then there's the obvious good stuff, like brownies and ice cream, duh. But I tell you what - after going 30 days without any sugar, and then coming back to it? Everything tastes annoying sweet. Like, obnoxiously, brazenly, almost insultingly sweet. Starbucks lattes? Too sweet. Chocolate chip cookies? Wayyy too sweet. Jeni's ice cream? I couldn't even finish it. I know, you probably want to ban me from your life right about now. If you haven't already stopped reading this post. But I never said that this blog would tickle your ears all the time. I can't help it you guys. I really can't. The truth was glaring me in tongue.

3. I'm discovering how to make healthier meals.
Look, you are probably cooking most days. I know I am. But learning some healthier techniques/recipes/ingredient swaps has been one of the most revolutionary takeaways for me. Because I'm cooking for my family every day, no matter what. We have to eat! And learning that I can spend the same amount of time prepping a meal but ensuring that it is incredibly healthy, made with whole foods (not preservative-laden substitutes) and brimming with irresistible flavor has been such a welcome revelation. These Whole30 meals do not taste like cardboard. It's actually the opposite. They taste better than most meals. In the beginning of the experiment, i definitely craved chocolate after dinner and wanted to throw some Parmesan cheese on top of my spaghetti squash spaghetti. But those desires have diminished significantly. And I feel empowered with some new recipes that are extremely delicious and nourishing. WIN.

There you have it, some of my biggest takeaways from the Whole30 experiment. Since ending Whole30 and eating "normal" again, nothing is really normal. I can't help but think about the health impact of everything I put into my mouth. It's definitely changed my way of approaching food, and I am still in the process of striking the right balance for my family that feels manageable (like, not annoying and high-maintenance) but also with a standard of health excellence. I want to set my son up for a lifetime of wellness, but I also want him to be able to eat a cookie with absolutely no guilt. It's a process, and I am still figuring it out. I'm compiling a shopping list and a slew of great recipes that I would recommend and will be making that available to blog subscribers soon. Let me know in the comments section if something like that would interest you!

If you would like to learn more about my Whole30 experiment, you can read about why I decided to try it. Also, check out my weekly diaries - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. Happy discoveries to you!

My Whole30 Diary. Part 2.

This is the continued documentation of my Whole30 experience. You can read about why I'm doing Whole30 here.

Day 8.
Breakfast: Omelet. Coffee. Fruit.
Lunch: Chicken Salad, greek style.
Dinner: Salmon cakes, roasted red pepper sauce, sweet potato.


Day 9.
Breakfast: Frittata (you can see the recipe here). Coffee. Fruit.

This is a strange day, because I actually wake up craving black coffee. Just black. No intense craving for the sugar in it. And it almost tastes good today. WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE WORLD.

Lunch: Greek chicken salad.
Snack: Apple with almond butter.
Dinner: Pork Chop with Spiced Apple Sauce and Kale Salad.

This dinner meal has quickly become one of my favorites on Whole30. And really - it's that spiced apple sauce. It's so surprising and so RIGHT on a pork chop. Plus, I feel like June Cleaver cooking up a pork chop in my kitchen. I mean, where are my pearls. Where are my heels.

Day 10.
Breakfast: Frittata. Coffee. Fruit.
Lunch: Roasted tomato soup (without the white wine - everything else is Whole30 compliant!) and a Greek chicken salad.

I have my friend Kathleen over today and I am somehow talking her into doing Whole30. I'm not even sure if I mean to be evangelizing the Whole30 gospel, but I hear myself talking her through all my reasons for doing it - and she is excited.

I suddenly realize I'm hooked. I might hate the pain of this wellness experiment, but I am hooked.

Dinner: Herb Chicken Meatballs and Tomato sauce. I forgot to make the spaghetti squash. Oops.

Day 11.
Breakfast: Frittata. What else as this point.

I do find myself longing for toast. Just a simple piece of toast would really mix up the boringness of eggs every.single.day.

Lunch: Leftover Roasted Tomato Soup. An apple with almond butter. A handful of sunflower seeds, which I'm convinced is not for filling up humans.
Dinner: Baked Chicken with roasted red pepper sauce. And something green.

Day 12.
Breakfast: Frittata. Fruit. Coffee.

I almost like Whole30 today. And I'm sort of actually craving black coffee again.

Lunch: A bowl of tomato soup, a sliced apple and a handful of sunflower seeds.
Dinner: Roasted spaghetti squash with herbed chicken meatballs and tomato sauce.

This strange thing happens after dinner - neither of us is craving something sweet. We ALWAYS crave something sweet after dinner, but tonight, nope. It's so weird. We watched an old episode of The Office and went straight to bed. Because there's nothing else fun to eat and drink.

Day 13.
Breakfast: Egg scramble with avocado, chicken sausage and tomatoes. Half a grapefruit. Black coffee.
Morning Snack: A sliced green apple with almond butter. Note: I am getting really, really sick of almond butter.

I am suuuuuuper hungry today. Like, so hungry I could eat a bus. I am hungry every hour around the clock and it dawns on me that I might need to be drinking more water. With all this meal prep, I'm forgetting to drink as much water as usual.

Lunch: A salad with avocado, sliced tomatoes, sunflower seeds, olives and chicken.
Dinner: Oven-baked Salmon with roasted red pepper sauce, sweet potato and kale chips.

I really can't lie. These dinners are all delicious. There has maybe been one that has only been so-so. I am just going by the book here, and preparing recipes that are on the plan. There are a zillion different dressings, vinaigrettes and sauces so you shouldn't get bored finding something to top your dinner protein with. It just takes some extra prep to actually make a dressing from scratch. It's not a big deal, but it's a deal. I find myself making 1-2 per week and that seems to work out well.

Day 14.
Breakfast: Quick eggs scramble and a banana.

Church day! Busy busy busy. The three of us are out the door before 7:30 and that feels like a miracle in itself. Then we have to figure out how to sustain the next few hours outside of the comfort of our own kitchen.

We help volunteer at our church before the service by hosting a breakfast bar for the other early morning volunteers - which means we provide Panera bagels and Chobani yogurt to the team. Everett happily gobbles up a half a bagel with honey-walnut cream cheese and I find myself very jealous of my son's good fortune. To not be on this wellness experiment. I almost drool.

Snack: Black coffee and a Lara Bar.
Lunch: Salad with leftover Salmon and random vegetables I rummage up out of the fridge.
Dinner: Slowcooked Beef with homemade ranch dressing and green onions, sweet potatoes and kale chips.

This beef is incredible. It's so good I swear I've made a mistake and accidentally added something non-Whole30 into the crockpot. I check my recipe like three times, but no, I've done everything according to the book. It's moments like these when I am convinced it's totally possible to eat delicious food on this plan. And then I like Whole30 again. (Seriously, this one is so good that I will share the recipe next week - I am only going to share my favorites with you!)

Overall Recap:
The anger from last week has subsided, although I still feel a steady amount of annoyance pretty much all the time. The sugar cravings have dramatically decreased, although I still have them from time to time. Having Stevie help take the lead on breakfast and lunch (when he could, according to his work schedule) really helped lighten my load and made this week feel more sustainable than last. My energy levels don't seem to have increased, although I am waking up three times a week to hit the gym early in the morning. Not sure if I could have done that a month ago, although I am making some adjustments to my sleep schedule, and trying to get into bed much earlier these days. There's nothing fun to munch on at night anyways. Overall, I am really glad I'm doing this, but it still feels hard. Really really hard. Like, really really hard.

What am I dreaming of? Going out to eat Mexican food that somebody else cooks and drinking a margarita.

P.S. Part 1 of my Whole30 diary.
 

TASTE: Lemon Mustard Chicken with Mango Cauliflower "Couscous" (PALEO ALERT)

Lemon Mustard Chicken with Mango Cauliflower "Couscous"

Good Morning! I hope everyone had an awesome Labor Day weekend. Ours was super low key, we just filled the days taking long walks and cooking early dinners. Haha, that's life with a newborn, folks! I am excited to share one particularly easy and delicious recipe with you today.

This was sent to me by my darling friend/sort-of-cousin/former-boss/mother-of-my-goddaughter (yes, we have a lot of relational ties). She mentioned that she had been eating "Paleo" lately, and that she's been feeling great as a result. I was intrigued, but not enough to give up all the good stuff in life. Obviously. She assured me that this recipe tasted DELICIOUS and that I needed to try it out for myself. So I relented. Folks? She was right. Ugh AGAIN. Kelley, you've got to stop doing that.

This recipe was sourced here, but I actually made a few (extremely minor) changes to the recipe to make it a bit more my own. (Lately I have a thing for adding whole grain mustard to everything:)

Lemon Mustard Chicken Ingredients:

- 4 chicken breasts, 2 to 4, boneless

- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

- ¼ cup lemon juice

- 1 tbsp whole-grain mustard

- 4 cloves garlic, minced

- 2 tbsp honey

- 2 tsp dried thyme

- 1 tsp red pepper flakes, crushed

- 1 tsp cayenne pepper

- 1 tsp sea salt

- 1 tsp black pepper

Lemon Mustard Chicken Method:

1. Heat a skillet or dutch oven over medium and let get really hot.

2. Place olive oil, lemon juice, whole-grain mustard, garlic, honey, thyme, red pepper flakes, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a bowl and mix well.

3. Add the chicken to the bowl and ensure an even coating of all the meat. (The original recipe says to "cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, and up to 2 days", but I didn't do that. I just coated the chicken well and placed it in the heated dutch oven.) Then I poured the remainder of the marinade over the chicken. The more the merrier, right?

4. Grill over medium heat only flipping once until cooked through. Serve over a bed of the Mango Cauliflower Couscous.

Mango Cauliflower "Couscous" Ingredients:

- ½ head cauliflower

- ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

- ½ cup raw almonds, chopped, consistency of choice, (you can substitute any nuts that you want)

- 1 mango, peeled and diced

- 1 tbsp coconut oil

- 1 pinch sea salt

Mango Cauliflower "Couscous" Method:

1. Melt coconut oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Pulse all of the cauliflower in a food processor until it is like rice or until it resembles Couscous.

2. Transfer the cauliflower to a separate bowl. Chop almonds up in a food processor, and then add to the cauliflower.

3. Place diced mango in the food processor and pulse until it is broken down to small chunks - don’t pulse too much or you will end up with mango salsa (which I am sure would work just fine; I just prefer little bites).

4. Add the cauliflower, almonds, and coconut to the sauté pan and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often and then add the mango. Continue to cook until done to your liking.

All together, now.

Serve the "couscous" with the delicious Lemon Mustard Grilled Chicken and enjoy. No seriously, you WILL enjoy it. Despite the whole Paleo-label. Let me know what you think!