Pesto-crusted salmon and Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad

I love pesto.  On anything: pasta, fish, chicken, sandwiches, pizza, spaghetti squash, you name it.  And now that I’ve figured out how to make my own, I like it even more since you can change it to make it how you want… you can add different spices or herbs or nuts, you can add cheese if you want or omit the cheese to use with meat.  It’s very versatile and very delicious.  Unfortunately there’s no precise science for making pesto since it’s very dependent upon your own tastes… but last week I made some delicious pesto using the following ingredients:

  • Toasted pine nuts (which I toasted in a pan on the stove for about 3-5 minutes over medium heat)
  • Basil (approximately 4 cups)
  • Lemon Juice (the juice from 1/2 of a lemon)
  • Garlic (2 minced cloves)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Parmesan Cheese (maybe 1/4 cup shredded)

I just put it all into the bowl of a food processor and ground it all up until it looked like pesto.  I then tasted and adjusted as necessary by adding salt and pepper.  It was delicious! pesto

With your pesto you can do just about anything… I chose to make a Pesto-Crusted Salmon by rubbing about 1 Tablespoon of the pesto on top of 4 6-oz. Atlantic salmon fillets and baking in the oven at 325 for 15 minutes.  pesto2

On the side we had some steamed green beans and I also made a Pesto Caprese Pasta Salad that had pesto along with some cherry tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese.  You can serve the remaining pesto on the side so people can add more or less to their pasta as they so choose, and you can top with some grated parmesan cheese.  pesto3

It was, if I do say so myself, a delicious meal! pesto4

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Zesty Slow-Cooker BBQ Chicken

We have made this recipe a couple times before and it’s turned out wonderfully but this time Ken thought of some changes to it that might make it even better!  Here’s the original recipe and here’s what we did:

We put 6 frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts into the bowl of a large crockpot (we use crockpot liners so we don’t have to clean it every time).  We then topped the chicken with 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half and then sliced into half-moons, and 10-12 sliced mushrooms. Then we mixed up 12 oz. of  BBQ sauce, along with 1/2 cup of Italian dressing1/4 cup of brown sugar, and 2 Tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce and poured that over the chicken with onions & mushrooms.

bbqWe will let it cook on low for 6-7 hours and then our plan is to take the chicken out to shred it using 2 forks and then put the chicken back in and continue to cook on low for 1 more hour.

Ken will eat the chicken as a sandwich on rolls or Challah and I’m planning go eat it on top of spaghetti squash so as to avoid the extra unnecessary carbs!  I’ll let you know how it turns out 🙂


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Smoked Salmon and Goat Cheese Frittata

In case you hadn’t heard, Ken & I decided not to continue with the Challenge because we were both feeling a bit burnt out.  Ken was complaining that he wanted some of our old stand-by recipes and that he wanted some cheese and I was just getting burnt out on doing all of the meal-planning, grocery shopping and cooking (which is necessary at this time of year because Ken is busy studying for his big board exams coming up on March 15th.  After his exam he’ll be able to help out a bit more around the house with cooking and watching Julia while I cook but for now I’m doing 99% of the meal planning, shopping and preparation which is exhausting.)

Even though we’re not continuing with the challenge, we have decided to make some big changes to the way we eat as a family: we want to make sure that every meal includes some protein and some vegetables.  We also liked a lot of the substitutions we learned about as far as using vegetables in place of carbs: rather than using real spaghetti, use spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles.  Rather than using real rice, use cauliflower rice.  Those are all substitutions that are fairly easy to make but that make your dish much healthier and less carb-heavy.  Obviously every now and then some real pasta is nice, and rice can be necessary in certain dishes (risotto, for example), but if we can limit the use of unnecessary carbs as much as possible, we’ll be eating healthier in general.  Personally I also want to limit the amount of artificial sweeteners I consume and I want to limit the amount of dairy I consume but mostly for me I think carbs are the big issue.  I’m trying to stick to mostly protein and fruits and vegetables while throwing in some healthy carbs here and there but having them be a much more occasional thing rather than an every-day thing.

So this week I told Ken to pick the recipes for me to make… I just didn’t want to be the one making all of the decisions.  Monday night we did some make-your-own pizzas using Boboli thin crust pizza crusts.  I topped them with pesto, grated mozzarella cheese, sundried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, baby portabella mushrooms and goat cheese.  I don’t have any photos but the pizzas were delicious!

Last night we made a scrumptious Smoked Salmon & Goat Cheese Frittata originally from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten.  It was very easy (but pricey) to make and turned out wonderfully.

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees farenheit.  Then, dice 1 medium onion and sautee that in a large oven-safe frying pan over medium-low heat with 1 tablespoon of butter.frittata(4)

While the onion is sauteeing, crack 12 extra-large eggs into a large mixing bowl and beat well.  Then add 1 cup of heavy cream4 oz. of fresh crumbled goat cheese1/2 lb. of chopped up smoked salmon3 chopped scallions3 tablespoons of chopped fresh dill1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.  frittata(5)

Once the onion is soft and translucent, pour the egg mixture over the onion.frittata(6)

Then place the frying pan into the middle of the oven and bake for 50 minutes.  frittata(8)When it comes out, the frittata should be slightly browned on top and puffy.  If you insert a knife into the middle of the frittata, the knife should come out clean.

This dish, while not at all a health food, was absolutely delicious!  frittata(3)

On the side we had some homemade sweet potato fries (that were ever so slightly burned but still quite tasty!) fries


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Zoodles with Chicken & Pesto

Last weekend I stumbled upon a Williams Sonoma that I had never seen before, so I went in and bought a Julienne peeler/Mandolin.  I had seen a lot of recipes that involved “Zoodles,” (aka Zucchini noodles) and figured a Julienne peeler would be useful to have if we are going to start incorporating some of these Paleo recipes into our regular rotation once this Challenge is over.  I thought chicken and pesto would be yummy with the Zoodles  and after looking at a bunch of recipes online, I felt comfortable enough making up my own recipe.  The result was delish!

Here’s what I did…

First, I cut 3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts into cubes and set those aside.

Then, I made my pesto: I lightly toasted 6 tablespoons of pine nuts in a pan on the stove for about 3-4 minutes until they got slightly browned and toasted.  I then put into the bowl of a food processor, 3 cups of fresh basil leaves, and added my mine nuts.  I added 2 chopped cloves of garlic and 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of salt.  I then pulsed the food processor using the regular blade until the ingredients were all finely chopped and then I turned the food processor on continuously and poured about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil into the bowl of the food processor while it was going.  My goal was to get a nice paste formed.  I then tasted the pesto, and had Ken taste the pesto and we adjusted the seasoning as necessary.  Ken wanted to add a little more lemon juice to balance out the flavors a bit.  Whole301

Finally, I turned 4 zucchinis into Zoodles by using my Julienne peeler.  You can make wide noodles if you want or you can make skinnier noodles… that’s entirely up to you.  I was learning how to use my Julienne peeler and figuring out how to play around with the different settings, so I ended up with noodles of varying sizes.  You can stop peeling when you get to the seeds of the zucchini.Whole302

I then sauteed the chicken just a little bit in olive oil in a pan on the stove over medium heat.  Once the chicken started to cook a bit, I added about 2 Tablespoons of the pesto to the pan and stirred to coat the chicken in the pesto.  I then let the chicken cook, flipping the pieces periodically, for about 10-12 minutes.Whole30

Meanwhile, I heated up a little bit of olive oil in the wok on the stove over medium-high heat and I added my Zoodles to the wok to sautee a little bit.Whole303  Once my chicken was cooked through, I added the pesto-coated chicken to the wok with the zucchini and I stirred to combine everything, then we served it and ate it with additional pesto on the side to stir in individually.Whole304  Yummy!  zoodles

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Paleo Cajun Dirty Rice

This is probably one of my favorite dishes that we’ve made during this Whole30 Challenge.  Dirty Rice is a delicious dish that we had several times in New Orleans.  We usually just used the Zatarain’s box mix and mixed in ground beef or ground turkey, but it’s even better when you can make it from scratch using your own seasonings.  So when I saw this recipe I had to try it!

It calls for the following ingredients:

– 1 pound ground beef
– 4 Spicy Kosher Italian sausages (or if you can find them, Kosher Andouille Sausages)
– 1 large cauliflower, riced (approx. 3 cups riced)
– 1 small onion, chopped- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
– 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
– 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
– 2 stalks celery, chopped
– 2 Tbsp. olive oil
– Hot sauce (for serving)

– 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
– 1 tsp. garlic powder
– 1 tsp. onion powder
– 1 tsp. paprika
– 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
– 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (use less if you are very sensitive to heat)
– 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
– 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
– Dash of red pepper flakes (optional)

And here’s what I did:

First, place a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 1/2 Tablespoon of olive oil and allow it to get hot.  Add the sliced sausage to the pan and heat until cooked through and slightly crispy around the edges.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Whole30

Add another 1/2 Tablespoon of olive oil to the pan.  Add the onion, garlic, bell pepper and celery to the pan and stir for about 3 minutes or until the vegetables start to soften. Whole301

Add the ground beef tot eh pan and then sprinkle in the seasoning mixture, stirring to combine.  Cook for another 5 minutes or until the ground beef is browned, stirring frequently.  Remove the ground beef mixture from the pan and set it aside with the sausages.  Whole302

(For this next part I switched to a wok but the original recipe has you use the same pan you were using for the meat…)

Turn the heat up to high, add the remaining 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to the wok and allow it to get hot.  Add the riced cauliflower and cook for about 5-8 minutes, or until a few of the pieces of cauliflower start to turn light brown, stirring frequently.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the sausage and ground beef mixture back to the pan, stirring to combine.  Make sure everything is heated through and add additional salt and pepper to taste.  I’m not a fan of hot sauce but if you are, serve with your favorite hot sauce!  Whole304

Ken, my mom and I all loved this dish and it definitely made us nostalgic for NOLA.

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Spaghetti (Squash) & Turkey Meatballs

Saturday night for dinner we had Spaghetti Squash with a new Turkey meatball recipe.  Doing this Whole30 Challenge has allowed me to learn many new recipes for old stand-bys that are not Paleo-friendly or Whole30 Compliant.  Normally when I make meatballs, I use breadcrumbs but bread is a big no-no on the Whole30 Challenge, so instead of bread crumbs, this meatball recipe uses coconut flour!

It was also different from my usual meatballs in that it had you add an orange bell pepper and a green onion to the meat mixture and rather than sauteeing them on the stove, the recipe had you bake them in the oven.

The recipe had you mix together in a large bowl:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup orange bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup onion
  • 1 stalk of green onion
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 Tbsp coconut flour
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

and then you bake for 20-25 minutes at 375, turning them over half way through the baking time.

Here were the meatballs ready to go in the oven!turkeymeatballs

We had them over spaghetti squash with some store-bought tomato sauce (that I checked to ensure Whole30 Compliance).  Yum yum!

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Tandoori Chicken and Cauliflower “Rice” with Tandoori Spice

Before my mom came to visit, I made this recipe which was very delicious but unfortunately had a slightly more subtle flavor than I would have liked.  I’m not sure what I could have done differently to enhance the flavor, but I will definitely experiment with it in the future to bring out the delicious spices a little more.  It was an easy recipe to make though, and I have now been introduced to Tandoori spice as a flavoring ingredient to use in other dishes as well.

I wasn’t able to find kosher chicken thighs, so I used drumsticks (about 2 lbs.)… Whole311

I then made the marinade using 1 cup of full fat coconut milk, 1 Tablespoon of Tandoori seasoning, and the juice of half a lemon.  Here’s what the marinade looked like once it was all mixed up: Whole312

I then poured it over the chicken and used my hands to press the marinade into the chicken pieces, and I let it marinate in the fridge for the whole day while I was at work. Whole313

When I got home from work, I followed the directions from the original recipe to bake it in the oven–I put a wire rack on a baking sheet covered in foil, and coated the rack with melted coconut oil, then I baked the chicken in the oven for about 40 minutes at 375, flipping it half way through the baking time.



On the side, I made Cauliflower Rice with Tandoori Spices, which I cooked in the wok in coconut oil along with 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped garlic clove and I added salt, pepper and another Tablespoon of the tandoori spice. Whole307 That was one of the best side dishes I’ve made in a long time and it was delicious and quite easy!


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