As someone who has always leaned more towards the vegetarian side of the spectrum when cooking for myself, I’ve spent a bit of my third week of the Whole30 struggling for inspiration to push through the rest of the challenge. I am rarely a fan of giant hunks of meat (The Bat’s fantastic steak and burger skills excepted), preferring stews and braises – many off limits because of the addition of wine, or starchy thickeners. And, while I love the variety and abundance of produce available during summer in San Diego, sometimes I need a bit of a nudge to break out of my salad rut of lettuce, bell peppers, scallions and avocado.
So, feeling rather bored with the combinations I could come up by mixing meats + vegetables + fruits, I spent this past week combing the #whole30 Instagram feed, bloggers who have conquered this particular 30-day challenge, cookbooks inspired by the Whole30 eating plan and scores of recipe sites to come up with dishes that inspire me to keep going. So far, so good! Today is Day 23 – only 7 days to go until the reintroduction phase begins. I continue to feel great and am slowly fitting into Paris clothes I had abandoned months ago. Win-win.
(Chicken coconut curry with green beans and red bell peppers)
Even as a seasoned (ha!) food blogger/fan-girl, it took some digging to find meal ideas that were truly inspiring. This “inspiration” mainly took two forms: (i) the “Yum – I want that in my belly right away”, and, the more exciting, (ii) “That looks almost perfect – what could I do/play with/alter to make it even better?” I thought it would be good to use this week 3 post to highlight a few of my key motivators. If any of you out there are considering taking on the Whole30 challenge (and, as of right now, I highly recommend it), maybe these blogs, books and recipes will help get you through the tough spots as well.
(Sashimi platter at RK Sushi, it was amazing to really taste the fish without the rice, soy or even wasabi – except for my favorite, the seared white tuna on the bottom left, which were out of bounds because of the ponzu glaze – The Bat happily snatched them up.)
The first and most obvious inspiration is the book, It Starts with Food. In this, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig lay out the Whole30 plan as their solution for the emotional, dependent, dysregulated eater of today. Not necessarily a source of recipes, the solid, scientifically backed justification for each of the “rules” of the 30-day challenge was so well thought out and presented that it was easy to turn away from the copious and ever-present sugar/booze/cheese/bread temptations I have run into on almost a daily basis. They made me believe in the health benefits of their plan and challenged me to see if I could follow long enough (30 days) to reap the benefits. After reading the entire book, I felt compelled to do so – I am not one who walks away from challenges easily (or at all).
(Chocolate Chili, topped with guacamole and green onions)
The second book I picked up that is proving to be essential to my success is Well Fed, a cookbook written by Melissa Joulwan, the voice behind “The Clothes Make the Girl” blog. Both the book and the blog have provided many recipes that I have already posted here: Rogan Josh, Moroccan Meatballs, Czech Meatballs, Chicken Coconut Curry (above), Olive Oil Mayo, Chocolate Chili (above), just to name a few. Not only do I continue to be inspired by her recipes, but her personal story is fascinating as well – so much so that I have gone back and started to read the blog from the very beginning just for the fun of it.
There were so many blogs whose ‘I finished the Whole30, this is what I learned’ recaps I read with great curiosity when I was struggling through those first few days – to convince myself that the benefits from the book were within reach for anyone and that the journey would be worth it. It is fascinating at the beginning to read about perspectives from the end – how cravings would disappear, and how eggs still sounded better when yogurt was again an option. As my finish line creeps closer, this all makes more and more sense to me – my cravings have all but dissipated, and I do not feel like I am missing much. I want to give a particular mention (again) to Luisa at The Wednesday Chef, who first piqued my curiosity and then stimulated my taste buds with her decadent Whole30 meals (few of which I have imitated).
For my last week, I have continued to dig deep into the Whole30-esque archives. I am very lucky that I love eggs – they usually form the foundation for at least one, if not two of my daily meals. I am as surprised as the next person that I am not sick of them yet – per se – but I could use a bit more inspiration of how to bust out of the scramble/omelet/frittata mode (I am looking forward to bell pepper eggs-in-a-nest tomorrow morning). Any ideas would be most welcome.
I am also looking forward to this pork and green chile stew over the weekend. Next week? Maybe this Chipotle Baked chicken (minus the cheese) and
most definitely hopefully these stuffed peppers (my inspiration is overflowing). My biggest victory lately has been to finally find a sausage without sugar – the Garlic & Herb (or Spicy Italian) chicken sausages at Trader Joe’s. This has become a quest, as almost every option has sugar as a key component of the spice mixture – not to mention lots of cheese filler. For dinner tonight, I was delighted to have a hunk of meat for dinner. Not to mention those squash tossed with this pesto – I could eat it right off the spoon!
It has been such an eye-opener to realize how many tasty plates can be made with high quality meats, herbs, vegetables and fruit. I hope that some of what is here can be inspiring for you as well!
As always, I have taken to posting all of my (unique) meals on Instagram – find me at researchingsandiego. Please find and lend me your best egg recipes for the next 7 days (or more!).