Hey fellow Foodie Penpals and/or curious readers!

Last month, I joined the Foodie Penpals program through The Lean Green Bean.
I was super excited to do this; what better way is there to share your love of food with incredible people? Basically, you are assigned a person whom you will send a box of goodies to, and another person will have the task of sending YOU a box of goodies!
This month, I received a box from Ashlyn Cowan. Check out her blog, On My Road to You. If you have been following my blog, you would know that I'm currently doing the Whole30 challenge. That means no sugar, grains, legumes, and dairy; this really puts a lot of limitations on what I can eat, especially something that has to be packed and mailed to me. Ashlyn was more than up for the challenge - I was SO pleased with the goodies she sent me. She's a vegan, so she challenged herself even further by combining our diets, so my box was filled with Paleo AND Vegan foods!
I have been growing bored with my usual snacks (Larabars, nuts, jerky), so I was super happy to see packages of dried fruit in flavors that I have never tried (pears and persimmons!). The Veggie Squares aren't Paleo, but they look delicious and I can't wait to try them after my challenge is over; I bet they would go great with some guac and fresh salsa! I did open (and inhale/devour) the YogaVive popped apple chips - holy cow, these were insane! I have never tried popped chips, much less popped fruit. It is crazy to me how light and crispy these were, I will definitely be looking to buy this in the near future! I'm a huge coffee drinker and am always looking to convert to tea; the mango green tea sounds like a delicious starting point! She also included a recipe for her favorite vegan pizza crust. Let me tell ya, I have been craving some serious pizza. After my Whole30 is done, I will definitely be putting this recipe to good use (I'll post about it when I do!).
Thank you, Ashlyn! Thank you for being so considerate of my diet (as challenging and frustrating as it might have been). I really appreciate the thought you put into your package!
If you aren't a part of the Foodie Penpals program, click here for more details on how to sign up!



When I think of Italian food, I automatically think of pasta, bread, and cheese. I thought I would have trouble Paleo-fying an Italian recipe to fit the Whole30 guidelines, but it has been surprisingly simple! I have had a fun time cooking (and eating) these tomato and chicken based dishes.  This one is no exception. It would be excellent on a cold winter night.

Chicken Cacciatore (Italy)

4 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 3-lb. chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 cups chicken stock
1 28-oz. can peeled whole san marzano tomatoes, chopped, juice reserved
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook, continuing to stir, for about 2 minutes more. Push onions to sides of pan, then add chicken and fry, turning pieces several times to brown evenly, about 4 minutes per side.
2. Add vinegar and 1 cup stock, and cook until it evaporates, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, with their juice, to chicken. Stir in bay leaf, rosemary, and parsley (reserving 1 tbsp. or so for garnish) and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer, adding chicken stock gradually as tomato juice evaporates, for 45 minutes. Garnish with reserved parsley. Serve with mashed sweet potatoes or cauliflower rice!

Adapted from Saveur


I added sweet Italian sausage to this dish to make it more of a meal. My tomato got too soft in the oven and fell apart, but it was still so good.

Stuffed Tomatoes (Italy)

3 large firm-ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs.), halved crosswise
2 tbsp. chicken broth (or vegetable, beef)
Kosher salt, to taste
3 cups loosely packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp. salted capers, soaked, drained, and chopped
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh oregano
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. almond flour

1. Heat oven to 500˚. Using your fingers, remove the seeds from the tomatoes. Pour broth into an 8" x 8" baking pan and place tomatoes on top, cut side facing up; season with salt. Combine parsley, capers, oregano, and garlic and sprinkle over tomatoes.
2. Heat olive oil over med-high heat on the stove. Toss almond flour and salt in pan, stirring often until "crumbly".
3. Sprinkle crumbs over tomatoes and drizzle with oil; bake until soft and golden brown, 10–15 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Adapted from Saveur


There was a time when I first started following the Paleo diet, that I didn't know sweet potatoes were Paleo-legal. That was sad time in my life, and I am so glad to say that sweet potatoes and I are friends once more. This dish really hit the spot - can't go wrong with sweet potatoes and chicken!

Chicken Vesuvio (Italy)

1 cup olive oil
10 cloves garlic
4 large sweet potatoes potatoes, peeled and quartered lengthwise
2 3–4-lb. whole chickens, each cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp. dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Heat oven to 375°. Heat oil in a roasting pan set over two burners over medium-high heat. Add garlic and potatoes; cook, turning, until potatoes are golden brown, about 45 minutes. Transfer potatoes and garlic to a plate; set aside.
2. Add chicken to pan; cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Add vinegar and 1 cup chicken broth; cook until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.
3. Return potatoes and garlic to pan; season with parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper. Add remaining broth; transfer pan to oven. Bake until cooked through, about 45 minutes.
Adapted from Saveur


This was super easy to make, and so convenient for packed lunches. After some crazy French and Spanish recipes, I was more than happy with Italy's simple yet savory meals.

Sausage and Peppers (Italy)

3 sweet Italian sausages
3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ½″ strips
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into ½″ strips
1/4 tsp crushed red chile flakes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 tsp dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1. Bring sausages, 2 tbsp. oil, and ⅓ cup water to a boil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat; cover, and simmer until sausages are half-cooked, about 8 minutes. Uncover and cook, turning, until sausages are browned all over, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into 4 pieces each; set aside.
2. Return skillet to heat along with remaining oil. Add onions and bell peppers; cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Add chile flakes and garlic; cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
3. Return sausages to skillet along with stock, oregano, and salt and pepper; boil. Cover and cook until sausages are cooked through, about 10 minutes; uncover and cook until sauce is slightly reduced, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley.
Makes: 2 servings

From Saveur


Messed up on my first meal, and forgot the pesto. The second time, I just slopped everything together on the plate. I hadn't poached eggs in awhile; it was a nice change from the usual scramble or over-medium.

Roma Eggs (Italy)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup homemade pesto
8 slices prosciutto
2 Roma tomatoes, cored and cut into ¼"-thick slices
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
4 eggs
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Heat olive oil in a 10" skillet over medium-high heat. Add prosciutto and fry, turning once, until crisp, about 2 minutes. In same pan, add tomato slices and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes. Place tomatoes on top of prosciutto.
3. Bring a 10" skillet of salted water to a simmer over medium heat; add vinegar. Crack eggs individually into 4 small dishes. Slip eggs into simmering water; turn off heat, cover, and cook until whites are just firm, 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon remove eggs from water, and place on top of tomatoes and prosciutto; top with pepper and pesto.

Adapted from Saveur



Week 2 is history! Captain Drumstick and I spent the week exploring the cuisines of Spain and France. I have to admit, these two countries really tested my commitment to this challenge. The recipes took time and attention; there were times when I felt too lazy to cook, but I dragged my butt off the couch and got it done! I pushed through a killer running WOD on Friday, so I spent all weekend hobbling around, cleaning, and catching up on 'Breaking Bad' episodes. I'm embarrased to say that I just started watching it a week and a half ago, and I'm already done with Season 4. Yes, I am a big piece of doo doo.

Anyways, catch up on the rest of my Week 2 meals (and recipes) below. We're off to Italy next! I love their cuisine so much, we are spending the entire week there!

DAY 12

Breakfast: Croque Madame (France).
Verdict: The picture looks blah, but this was yummy. I remember my first Croque Madame, which was actually in Belgium, not France. I was at a restaurant 'In de Vrede' across from the Westvleteren monestary that brews the only 100/100pt beer in the world. I sampled all 3 beers, and ate a Croque Madame sandwich, and proclaimed that I must have pineapples/ham/dijon mustard everyday for the rest of my life (that was probably the beer talking).

4 oz ham steak
1 egg
1 pineapple, cut into rings or chunks
Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil

1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat with olive oil.
2. Fry ham steak until crispy, about 1 minute on each side. Remove and plate.
3. Fry egg to your preference, season with salt and pepper. Remove and place on top of ham.
4. Arrange pineapple slices on top of egg.
5. Top pineapple with dijon mustard.

Lunch: Cucumber and Salmon Roll Ups (France).
Verdict: Not sure why I wasn't hungry for lunch, but I went home anyway and made this quick and fresh snack. I really need a mandoline; the cucumbers were a little thick and wouldn't roll up very easily.

1 package of the thinnest smoked salmon you can find
1 cucumber
Homemade mayo
1 garlic clove
Salt and pepper

1. Place 1/2 cup of mayo, garlic clove, and a few mint leaves in a blender. Blend well until the ingredients are well mixed.
2. Cut cucumber in half crosswise. Then cut the halves into thin slices.
3. Lay cucumber flat, squirt a thin layer of mayo sauce, and lay a slice of smoked salmon on top. Roll up.
4. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Dinner: Trout Meunière Amandine; Trout with Brown Butter and Almonds (France).
Verdict: This was so yummy. I accidentally got bass instead of trout, but I was not disappointed. The crust was perfection, and the brown butter sauce was devine. Please try this at home.

1 cup unsalted butter
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Olive oil, for frying
2 eggs
2 cups almond meal
4 8-oz boneless, skinless sea trout, redfish, or red snapper filets
Salt and pepper
3 cups sliced almonds, toasted
1 tbsp minced parsley, for garnish
1 lemon, cut into slices, for serving

1. Heat butter in an 8" skillet over medium heat; cook, stirring, until solids turn dark brown, 20–25 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in vinegar and lemon juice; set sauce aside.
2. Pour oil into a 6-qt. Dutch oven to a depth of 2"; heat over medium-high heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350°. In a shallow dish, whisk eggs; put flour into another shallow dish. Season fish with salt and pepper. Working with one filet at a time, dip fish in flour, shake off excess, and then dip in egg and shake off excess. Return filets to flour; transfer to a rack over a baking sheet. Working in two batches, fry fish until golden brown, 5–6 minutes, then drain on paper towels. To serve, divide fish between 4 plates; sprinkle almonds on top. Whisk sauce and spoon over fish. Garnish with parsley; serve with lemon slices.

DAY 13

Brunch: Mini Chipotle Pork Quiches (France).
Verdict: I'll make the crust a little thinner next time; I think it was too thick - the almond meal flavor overpowered the pork, and it didn't taste as savory as I wanted. I'm really happy with how well it came out though.

For the Tart Crust:
1 1/4 cups almond meal, sifted
11 tablespoons (5.5 ounces) butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Filling:
6 ounces lean ground pork
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chili
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon minced chives
2 eggs
1 cup coconut milk

1. For the Tart Crust: In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour, butter, egg, and salt together with a wooden spoon, or with a hand mixer on the lowest speed. Mix until the dough comes together into a cohesive mixture, rather than lots of individual lumps, and can be formed into a ball.
2. Grease the wells of a regular size muffin tin . You will need 20 separate muffin wells, so it will take multiple tins. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a log about 15 inches long. Cut the log into 20 equally sized pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a ball and then flatten it slightly with your palms. Place the dough into a greased muffin tin and use your fingers to press the dough out and up the sides of the muffin well to shape the sides.
3. For the Filling: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In a skillet, cook the ground pork over medium heat until no longer pink. While it is cooking, season it with the ground chipotle chile and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt.
4. Sprinkle the sausage, and chives into the tart shells. In a bowl, beat the eggs, coconut milk, and remaining salt together until combined. Pour the mixture into the quichelette crusts until it reaches the top edge of the crusts.
5. Bake the quichelettes for 26-28 minutes or until slightly browned. Let them cool for about 10 minutes and then very gently lift them out with a butter knife and serve warm.

Dinner: Salmon à la Nage (France).
Verdict: Ooo, I really really really liked the broth. The salmon was also super nice, and the mussels... well, the mussels... well, you see, I've never had mussels before, and I get really freaked out with some seafood... so, I may have put a mussel in my mouth and chewed a couple times before panicking and spitting it out... I'm so ashamed. I was trying to be adventurous but I think I went too far with it.

6 stalks asparagus
9 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
4 6-oz skinless, boneless salmon filets
Salt and pepper, to taste
24 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 1/4 cup broth (vegetable or chicken)
1/2 cup string beans
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
1 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill

1. Heat oven to 225°. Snap off and discard ends from asparagus. Thinly slice stalks on the bias; leave tips intact. Set aside. Grease a 10" straight-sided skillet with 1 tbsp. butter. Sprinkle skillet with shallots. Season filets with salt and pepper; arrange in skillet. Scatter mussels around filets; pour in wine/broth with 1 1⁄2 cups water. Boil, and reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, covered, until mussels open, 2–3 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside, covered, to let steam, until fish is just cooked through, 3–4 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer fish to a baking sheet; transfer mussels with a slotted spoon to sheet, leaving broth in skillet. Keep fish and mussels warm in oven.
2. Place skillet over high heat; bring broth to a boil. Whisk in remaining butter, 1 tbsp. at a time, until smooth. Add asparagus and string beans; cook until tender, 2–3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in tarragon, chives, parsley, and dill. Season with salt and pepper. Divide fish and mussels among 4 bowls; divide broth between them.

DAY 14

Brunch: Vivaneau Rouge Rôti avec Fenouil et Tomates; Red Snapper Baked with Fennel and Tomatoes (France).
Verdict: Tasty. I wish I hadn't burnt the veggies under the broiler, but the fish more than made up for that. It was flaky and juicy and just wonderful. I need to work with whole fish more often (this was my first time.

3 plum tomatoes, cored and halved lengthwise
1 medium bulb fennel, trimmed, cut into 12 wedges
1 medium yellow onion, cut crosswise into 12″ slices
4 cloves garlic
Kosher salt, to taste
½ cup fresh lemon juice
⅓ cup olive oil
1 tsp. lightly crushed coriander seeds
1 tsp. lightly crushed black peppercorns
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 (1-lb.) whole red snappers, cleaned and scaled
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. finely chopped parsley

1. Heat oven to 400°. Place tomatoes, fennel, and onion evenly in a large oval baking dish; set aside. Mince garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle heavily with salt; using a knife, scrape garlic and salt together to form a smooth paste. Transfer to a bowl, and whisk in juice, oil, coriander, peppercorns, thyme, and bay leaves; pour half of this dressing over the vegetables. Place in oven and bake until vegetables are tender, about 35 minutes.
2. Heat broiler to high. Season inside and outside of fish with salt and ground pepper, and place over vegetables in dish; pour remaining dressing evenly over fish. Place under broiler and cook, turning fish once, until fish are cooked through, about 18 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Side Dish: Ratatouille (France).
Verdict: I love this dish; I think it's a perfect side dish, but could even be a good main dish if you added some sausage or chorizo to it. I had Ratatouille in Nice at a small restaurant that I went back to two days in a row because it was so lovely. This dish takes me back to my dinners there, where I felt free, alive, and happy.

1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 cup tomato puree (such as Pomi)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant
1 smallish zucchini
1 smallish yellow squash
1 longish red bell pepper
Few sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Pour tomato puree into bottom of an oval baking dish, approximately 10 inches across the long way. Drop the sliced garlic cloves and chopped onion into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.
3. Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the red pepper and remove the core, leaving the edges intact, like a tube.
4. On a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.
5. Atop the tomato sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables (If you look at my picture, I layered each vegetable without alternating for no other reason than that I thought the colors were prettier that way). You may have a handful leftover that do not fit.
6. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs with your fingertips, running them down the stem. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.
7. Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside.
8. Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them.

Dinner: Pork Chops Piquant (France). Served with Ratatouille.
Verdict: Oh yum, you can't go wrong with the pork and mustard combo. The onions also got real soft to the point they were almost caramelized.

5 tbsp. olive oil
2 lbs. thin-cut pork chops
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
6 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3/4 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
8 cornichons, sliced
2 tbsp. dijon mustard

1. Heat 2 tbsp. of the oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Generously season chops with salt and pepper. Working in batches, fry chops until browned on each side and just cooked through, about 1 minute per side. Transfer chops to a plate, loosely cover with foil to keep warm, and set aside.
2. Add the remaining 3 tbsp. oil to the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté, stirring often, until soft and just beginning to brown, 3–5 minutes. Add vinegar and cook, stirring and scraping browned bits stuck to bottom of skillet, until reduced by three-quarters, about 1 minute. Add white wine vinegar/broth and cook until reduced by half, 5–6 minutes. Stir in cornichons, mustard, and any accumulated juices from chops. Reduce heat to medium and cook until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Return chops to skillet and baste with sauce until warmed through, about 2 minutes.



I apologize for how lazy I've been. I haven't been showing the edits I made to the original recipes to turn them Whole30-friendly. I'll try to be better about that now.

During the half-day I had in Omaha between Dallas and Salt Lake, I packed a big ziploc bag full of spices and sauces. I needed to go prepared to SLC, otherwise I would have used every excuse in the book to stray from the Whole30.


Brunch: Customized Omelette at IHOP - Spinach, Sausage, and Peppers/Onions.
Verdict: A safe choice. I almost forgot ketchup was a no-no, but I poured some hot sauce on instead.

Dinner: Roast Chicken with Saffron and Lemons (Spain).
Verdict: Yummy in my tummy! I used drumsticks instead of a whole chicken since I was only making dinner for myself. I threw these on the grill, and they crisped up very nicely while retaining their juices.

1 3-lb. chicken 2-3 chicken drumsticks
1 large pinch saffron threads, toasted
2 tsp. salt
1⁄4 tsp. black peppercorns
1 lemon, thinly sliced
Sprigs of rosemary

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Wash, then dry, chicken.
2. Grind toasted saffron threads, salt, and peppercorns with a mortar and pestle. Use your fingers to gently separate the skin from the flesh of the chicken. Rub spices over and under the skin, and inside the cavity. Place lemon slices and rosemary under the skin and inside the cavity.
3. Tuck the wings under the back and tie the bird with a kitchen string to hold the legs together for even cooking. Place in a baking pan and roast for 1 hour. NOTE: If using an outside rotisserie, follow manufacturer's directions on cooking whole chicken. Grill on high heat for about 20 minutes, turning chicken every 5 minutes.


Breakfast: Ham and Pesto Frittata (Spain).
Verdict: I don't like mushrooms, so I left those out. It was good, but I don't think frittatas are the same without cheese...

4 organic eggs
1/4 cup of milk
a dollop of basil pesto (homemade paleo version)
salt and pepper to taste
a good splash of olive oil
2 grated zucchini
8 slices of Virginian leg ham, finely shredded
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese

1. Whisk your eggs with the milk, basil pesto and a little salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. Heat the olive oil in a pan on a medium heat and when the oil is ready add the zucchini and cook until softened.
3. Add the ham and mushrooms and continue to stir until everything is cooked.
4. Add your whisked egg mixture to the pan, ensuring it covers everything well.
5. The frittata is ready when the egg mixture begins to “set” on the sides of the pan. When you achieve this “half cooked” consistency add your grated Parmesan cheese ensuring it covers the whole top of the frittata.
6. Place the pan in a pre heated 180 deg C oven and cook for about 7 mins.

Lunch: Mixed Paella (Spain).
Verdict: The broth was very flavorful, I would like to sear the chicken next time to give it a cripsy texture. I'm not a big seafood eater, so I left those out.

30 5 threads saffron, crushed (a scant 1⁄2 tsp.)
1 1/2 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2" pieces
10 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1⁄2 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz. dry-cured Spanish chorizo, cut into 1⁄4"-thick coins
1 tbsp. 1 tsp smoked paprika
3 2 cloves garlic, minced
3 1 dried bay leaves
3 2 medium tomatoes, minced
1 small onion, minced
7 3 cups chicken broth
2 1⁄2 cups short-grain rice, preferably Valencia or bomba
1 9-oz. box frozen 1/4 can artichoke hearts, thawed
8 oz. fresh or frozen peas bunch string beans
3 1 jarred roasted red peppers, torn into 1⁄2"-thick strips
12 mussels, cleaned and debearded

1. Put saffron and 1⁄4 cup hot water in a small bowl; let sit for 15 minutes. Season chicken and shrimp with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 16"–18" paella pan over medium-high heat. Add chicken, shrimp, and chorizo and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer shrimp to a plate, leaving meats in pan. Add paprika, garlic, bay leaves, tomatoes, and onions to pan and cook, stirring often, until onions soften, about 6 minutes. Add reserved saffron mixture and broth, season with salt, and bring to a boil over high heat.
2. Sprinkle in rice, distribute evenly with a spoon, and add artichokes, peas, and peppers. Cook, without stirring, until rice has absorbed most of the liquid, 10–12 minutes. (If your pan is larger than the burner, rotate it every two minutes so different parts are over the heat and the rice cooks evenly.) Reduce heat to low, add reserved shrimp, and nestle in mussels hinge side down; cook, without stirring, until mussels have opened and rice has absorbed the liquid and is al dente, 5–10 minutes more. Remove pan from heat, cover with aluminum foil, and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Dinner: Potatoes Stewed with Paprika and Chorizo (Spain).
Verdict: Can't go wrong with sweet potatoes and chorizo! Loved this dish.

1 medium russet sweet potato, peeled
5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 1/4 lb. lamb riblets shoulder, separated
6 oz. pork shoulder, cut into 2" chunks
1 medium white onion, peeled and finely diced
1/2 green bell pepper, stemmed, cored, seeded, and diced
8–10 oz. Spanish chorizo, sliced into 1/2"-thick pieces
3 tbsp. sweet Spanish paprika
1 bay leaf
1 dried guindilla or other dried red hot chile
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
Leaves from 6 sprigs parsley, chopped

1. Insert the tip of a knife into each potato far enough to begin splitting it in half, then wedge your thumbs into the crack and break potato apart. Repeat the process with potato halves, quartering them. Heat 3 tbsp. of the oil in a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, add potatoes, and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, 5–7 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a bowl and set aside.
2. Heat remaining oil in same pot over medium-high heat. Season lamb and pork with salt, add to pot, and lightly brown all over, about 2 minutes. Add onions, peppers, chorizo, paprika, bay leaf, and chile and cook until vegetables are soft, 2–3 minutes. Stir in garlic and parsley. Add 6 cups boiling water and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add potatoes and simmer, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender, potatoes are soft and sauce has thickened, 45-60 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Discard bay leaf. Transfer to a warm tureento serve at the table, if you like.

DAY 10

Snacks: Day 10 consisted of the same meals as Day 9. I knew I was going to be busy (and flying back to Omaha that evening), so I made sure I had enough leftovers. I was outside for most of the day, so I packed some plaintain chips, nuts, a Larabar, and a packet of almond butter. I like to squirt the butter on top the the Larabar for some extra flavor.

DAY 11

Lunch: California Burger with a side of fruit.
Verdict: No theme today because I have no groceries to cook with. After a weeklong hiatus from burgers, this became appetizing to me again. The fruit salad was AMAZING with strawberries, cantaloupe, pineapple, and dried cranberries!


It was hard leaving Titan behind in Utah, but I was really anxious to see Jimi. I wish we could just be one big happy family again. I bet they miss each other.



Yay! I'm done with Week 1 of my Whole30! Captain Drumstick and I started our travels in the USA, made our way down to Mexico, Argentina, and across the Atlantic to Africa! (Catch up on our meals below). I'd be lying if I said it hasn't been tough. After spending Tuesday and Wednesday traveling and in Dallas, I was asked to go back to Utah for a week starting Thursday. Luckily, my bf still lives in Utah in our old house so I went grocery shopping and was grateful to have access to a kitchen (sadly, sans my lovely kitchen supplies).

You know what's really saved me this week? I went to Trader Joe's when I was in Omaha Thursday morning; I stocked up on Plaintain Chips (I am obsessed with these), Mixed Nuts (macadamia, almonds, pistachios, cashews), dried fruit, and Larabars (I like to make homemade ones, but didn't have time - recipe coming soon). With the weird schedule that comes with traveling and working night shifts, it really helped to have a ziplock bag full of munchies.

Stay tuned for Week 2's meals; Captain Drumstick and I are heading to a couple of the world's finest culinary meccas - Spain and France!


Breakfast: Baked Eggs with Bacon and Tomato (USA). I used bacon already in my fridge instead of prosciutto.
Verdict: Super easy to make, and so convenient to eat on the go.

Lunch: Hardee's Low Carb Burger (USA). Ask them to hold the cheese, mayo, and ketchup.
Verdict: Tasty. My go-to choice for a quick/emergency Paleo meal.

Dinner: McDonald's Angus Burger (USA). No bun, cheese, or ketchup.
Verdict: Pretty sick of burgers that this point. This was after I landed in SLC; I took a trip to Whole Foods and stocked up on groceries for the remainder of the week.


Breakfast: Huevos a la Mexicana (Mexico).
Verdict: Another fast breakfast. I have to admit, I'm a little sick of eggs. What do you guys do to change up your morning meals?

Lunch: Steak Salad at Barbacoa (Mexico).
Verdict: Yummmmmy. I used to get this for lunch (alternative to the Hardee's/Carl's Jr burger) when I was in a hurry or couldn't make it home. It also fit in very nicely with my Mexico theme.

Dinner: Quick Fix Fast Fajitas (Mexico).
Verdict: I wanted to wrap these up in Pure Wraps, but didn't have time to order them. It was still tasty though.


Brunch: Grilled Fish Tacos with Creamy Chipotle Sauce (Mexico).
Verdict: After all the traveling, I slept in and made a nice brunch. I didn't have access to a blender, so I just minced the ingredients for the sauce (packed my own mayo). I LOVED this meal. The seasoning on the fish was perfection.

Dinner: Rolled Stuffed Flank Steak (Argentina).
Verdict: I used string beans instead of peas. I've never made a pinwheel/rolled dish before; I think it turned out lovely!


Brunch: Doro Wot (Ethiopia). A spicy chicken stew.
Verdict: I worked an early morning shift (4am-10am), and forced myself to stay up until I had to go back to work at 10:30pm... Luckily, cooking always puts me in a perky mood. Whoops, didn't add enough water to make it a real "stew", but it was still tasty. Couldn't readily find berbere (an Ethiopian spice mix), but you can make it yourself at home.

Dinner: Màfe Ginaar (Africa). A peanut and chicken stew.
Verdict: I used almond butter instead of making the peanut butter. Holy cow, this was maybe my favorite meal of the week (close runner up is the tilapia). It was spicy, packed with flavor, and reminded me of my favorite Korean dish (Dak Dori Tang - spicy chicken and potatoes).



I'm going to start this off with a little rant because when I read through the Whole30 guidelines, this paragraph pissed me off:

"It is not hard. Don’t you dare tell us this is hard. Quitting heroin is hard. Beating cancer is hard. Drinking your coffee black. Is. Not. Hard. You won’t get any coddling, and you won’t get any sympathy for your “struggles”. YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE not to complete the program as written. It’s only thirty days, and it’s for the most important health cause on earth – the only physical body you will ever have in this lifetime."

Alright Mr. and Mrs. Hartwig - I'm going to flip you a virtual middle finger because that is just annoying. If it wasn't hard, it wouldn't be called a f-ing challenge. If it wasn't hard, there wouldn't be an abundance of morbidly obese people in the world. No, it isn't hard to drink coffee black (I do that anyways). It is hard when you can't make good food choices because the options just aren't available. It is hard when your job jerks you around and makes you travel with short notice. It is hard when you are eating with friends and family, but you have to be a little snot and sip water, or munch on a salad/bunless burger because everything else is "contaminated". But this is a challenge, and I will overcome the obstacles in order to complete my 30 days of clean eating. I just don't need your condescending tone of superiority. F off.



Breakfast: Spinach, Beef, and Egg Hash (USA).
Verdict: Yum. Would be better with sausage.

Lunch: Lobster Salad Lettuce Wraps (USA).
Verdict: It got a little runny; I need to pat the lobster meat dry next time.

Dinner: Cobb Salad (USA) with baslamic vinaigrette.
Verdict: Favorite meal of the day. The bacon, egg, and vinaigrette really made it.


Breakfast: Eggs, Bacon, and Ham Steak (USA) at the Omaha Airport.
Verdict: The ham was a bit fatty, and I'm sure it wasn't great quality so I didn't eat the fat. Bacon was a bit stiff and hard to chew.

Lunch: Angus Burger (USA) with fruit at the Dallas hotel.
Verdict: Not bad. I liked the fresh fruit.

Dinner: Filet Mignon (USA) and broccoli at Bob's Steak and Chophouse.
Verdict: I stayed away from the glazed carrot and mashed potatoes (for some reason, they wouldn't leave it off the plate). Apologies for the grainy photo; the lighting was horrible in the banquet room.


Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, and Fruit (USA) at the hotel buffet.
Verdict: Not bad. Way better than the usual yogurt and pastries they serve us.

Lunch: Salad with Grilled Veggies and Ham (USA) at the hotel.
Verdict: The ham tasted really weird, but the veggies were good and I love arugula.

Dinner: Burger (USA) and broccoli at the Dallas Airport.
Verdict: Just okay. I ordered a fruit bowl but it was covered in sugary syrup, so I shoved it to the side.

I was told on Wednesday (Day 3) that I needed to fly back to Omaha that night (original plan), but then jump on a plane to SLC the next day... for a week... This puts a major wrench in my "sit back and enjoy the Whole30" plan. Luckily, I'll just be staying at my old place so I'll have access to a kitchen. I'm going to try and stick with my meal plan, cause I spent way too many hours planning it to just scrap it! The hardest part is that I'll have to be away from Jimi for even longer! He's at camp now, and I'll pick him up and squeeze all my hugs/kisses into a tiny 30-minute window until I drop him off at the dog-sitter's house. He looked so sad when I drove him to camp on Tuesday... I need to do something special for him when I get back. Maybe I'll bake him some Paleo dog treats...



I went back to Chicago for the weekend to celebrate my parents' birthdays; they were born almost a year apart, which makes their birthdays less than a week apart.

I made them a birthday cake using a yellow cake mix and homemade strawberry buttercream frosting. I wanted to use fondant to cover the cake, and make little fondant dog figures (Butters and Jimi), but the marshmallow fondant was WAY too sticky and soft... I need to learn more about gum paste. I was disappointed, but my parents really liked it.

I chowed down on some of my mom's Korean cooking. She made my favorite spicy chicken and potatoes dish, along with cod and zucchini fried in egg. Goodness, I really miss my mom's cooking. Please excuse the unappetizing picture I took. I was in too big of a rush to start shoveling food into my mouth.

On Saturday, we ate at Giordano's for lunch. My favorite pizza is the stuffed spinach. People think it's weird to love a pizza with no meat in it, but trust me, this pizza is SO GOOD. Please don't go to Chicago and eat at Uno's... that's just offensive. Try Giordano's, Gino's East, or Lou Malnati's.

While wandering around at the mall, my sister reminded me that Godiva owed us a chocolate (free chocolate each month - it's free to sign up in stores!). I got a red velvet truffle, yum. Then, I proceeded to blow through my month's budget by shopping at Zara.

We hit up Jewel (grocery store) to pick up the remaining ingredients for the dinner that my sister and I were going to make for our parents. Of course, we had to get some pizza puffs. I feel bad for you if you have never tried one of these babies. It's like a wonderful hot pocket stuffed with pizza toppings (typically sausage and cheese), and deep fried. I do a dance everytime I take a bite.

Saturday birthday dinner: steak, mashed potatoes, string beans, bacon wrapped dates (stuffed with goat cheese and almonds), and a salad.

After getting dropped off at O'Hare, I ran to Rick Bayless' Tortas Frontera, and ordered a Milanesa Torta Sandwich. It was a crispy chicken sandwich topped with pickled jalapenos. Yes, I was the jerk that brought good-smelling food on the plane, and make everyone's tummies rumble.

When I got back to Omaha, I ran to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, picked up Jimi, and hurried home to get organized for the week. I bought a pound of top round roast at WF, and asked them to cut it into really thin slices. I seasoned it with salt/pepper, and marinaded it in liquid smoke and coconut aminos. It sat in the dehyrdator for about 4 hours, and voila - jerky!

I'll leave you with this picture of Jimi. He is always so tired after a weekend at camp - just the way I like him.  It was a fun weekend; so good to spend time with my parents and my sister.  I'm off to Dallas on Tuesday which should make the start of my Whole30 a little more challenging (traveling on a diet is always hard), but I planned ahead and told the company secretary about my dietary restrictions. Excitement!!!