Simple, humble ingredients to make a flavor-packed nutritious dish. It is so delicious you will forget you are doing Whole30.
I officially survived my first week of Whole30. Woo woo! Ok technically, I still have to make it through the weekend (which I expect won’t be easy, I’ll report back soon), but I made it through the week. My first big Whole30 milestone.
Surprisingly, I feel pretty darn good! I read that the first week is the hardest and you may experience symptoms of sugar withdrawal. My biggest concern was giving up sweets. I typically have a piece of dark chocolate after lunch and a small bowl of halo top after dinner. However, I have been able to resist these cravings by eating fruit after my meals. I eat a bowl of berries after lunch and a few frozen grapes after dinner. I have been mindful not to overdue it on the fruit because I know the creators of Whole30 caution replacing fruit with your normal desserts in order to fuel your sugar dragon (i.e. your craving for sugar and sweets).
Turns out the founders of Whole30 were right: drinking your coffee black is not that hard. I actually prefer it. I genuinely love the flavor of coffee and now I can taste it without all the fake creamer and sweeteners diluting its beautiful aromas.
I also feel more energized. I wake up early feeling fresh and ready to conquer my day and stay productive throughout the day. Bye bye my normal 3 o’clock crash. The mid-day slump feeling has almost completely disappeared, which I contribute to eating a less filling more protein packed lunch. Finally, since I’m not hungover or too full, I feel like a rockstar during my workouts. Move over Jillian Michaels – I’m a cardio ninja now! I hope this newfound high energy level continues!
This experience has not been all rainbows and butterflies. The Whole30 plan recommends eating 3 large meals a day and minimizing snacking. However, I prefer eating smaller meals throughout the day. Even with eating slightly bigger meals, the urge to snack remains (which I refuse to feel guilty about since I’m eating healthy Whole30 compliant snacks). I also have been experiencing minor headaches this week, likely a sugar withdrawal symptom. My sleep problems also persist. I still don’t sleep well throughout night (which I pray improves as I progress through this journey).
Real talk for a minute – I know not drinking wine this weekend will present the biggest obstacle. My husband keeps asking me what I want to do this weekend and I literally can’t think of any activity that doesn’t involve drinking. Sad, I know. I hope to report back to you that we found a fun, sober activity.
Back to the positives. The best realization this week is you can absolutely make amazing Whole30 complaint dinners. You don’t need grains and dairy to make flavorful, delicious meals. One of the first meals on the menu: pesto zoodles with roasted cherry tomatoes. It’s crazy good, simple to make, and perfectly filling. It will be a go-to this month.
Let’s get to cooking.
First, we need to make the pesto. The pesto only takes minimal ingredients but packs a punch in flavor!
I recommend toasting the walnuts in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes. You might be wondering whether this is a necessary extra step. Yes!! It is worth the small amount of extra time. Toasting the walnuts helps bring out the flavor in the nuts. It’s like the difference between a raw and cooked onion. A huge difference!
Once the walnuts are nice and toasty, let them cool and then add them with a nice pinch of salt to a food processor. Pulse until it resembles gravel. Add in the leafy greens, basil, lemon juice, and garlic cloves and pulse until all of the ingredients are well-combined. Finally, with the food processor running, stream in the olive oil from the opening in the top until all the olive oil is mixed in and the sauce comes together. It will be a beautiful, vibrant green color!
This sauce is amazing. It’s easy to make and adds so much flavor to any dish. I plan to make this weekly to store in my fridge to have on hand for all my meals. Add a little pesto to your eggs and you have a whole new super tasty dish. We even added this to our roasted potatoes since we could not use any of the ketchup or ranch we had in our fridge – it elevated the potatoes to the next level.
Next, you can make the roasted tomatoes. Drizzle olive oil and salt on the cherry tomatoes and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until they start to wrinkle and brown slightly. These are super simple to make and add a nice pop of flavor to each bite.
Lastly, time to make the zoodles. I use my kitchen aid spiralizer attachment to make my noodles (which is a little pricey but well worth the investment). You can buy a cheaper version of a spiralizer, which still works great. Most grocery stores even sell zucchini already spiralized (but in all honesty, if you plan to make vegetable noodles often, I recommend just investing in the spiralizer. The pre-made noodles tend to be expensive).
The next step is critical. Zucchini contains a lot of moisture and when cooked, it releases that moisture to your dish. This leads to a watered down sauce, which is not very appetizing. To prevent this, you simply need to salt your zucchini noodles and let them sit and release their moisture while sandwiched between paper towels or wrapped in a cheese cloth. I tested letting the salted zucchini sit for a half hour and for 2 hours and discovered the longer it sits, the better. If you have the time, I would do this step a few hours before cooking to get the best results. If not, even doing this step for a half hour will help prevent a watery sauce. Right before cooking, use a cheese cloth or more paper towels to squeeze out any excess water.
To cook the prepared zoodles, heat olive oil and red pepper flakes in a large skillet. Add in the zoodles and cook for about 2-3 minutes. The zoodles will shrink down slightly as they cook but still remain a little crunchy. Dollop about half of the pesto on the noodles and toss so the sauce coats each noodles. Top with the roasted tomatoes and extra walnuts. Voila! Your delicious Whole30 meal is complete.
I usually douse my pastas with tons of parmesan cheese. The parmesan cheese always seems to disappear in the dish, which leads me to keep adding more. I actually thought the parmesan cheese made the dish. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered the parmesan cheese is not necessary at all. This dish was delicious with absolutely no dairy. I’m excited to learn other misconceptions I have about the way I approach and eat food.
I am confident I can stay true to my January Whole30 with amazing dishes like this Pesto Zoodles with Roasted Tomatoes. Oh I also highly recommend pairing the zoodles with a protein, like turkey meatballs (recipe coming soon!)
Pesto Zoodles and Roasted Tomatoes
Simple ingredients to make a flavor-packed nutritious dish.
- 1/3 cup toasted walnuts
- 1 cup spinach and arugula mix I buy it premixed
- 1 cup basil
- juice of one lemon
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4-5 zucchinis depending on size
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- red pepper flakes to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- turkey meatballs optional
Pesto. In a food processor, add the nuts and salt and blend until the nuts are broken down into a sand like consistency. Add in the basil, spinach/arugula, lemon juice, and garlic and pulse until broke down and combined with the nuts. With the food processing running on low, slowly stream in the olive oil until the sauce comes together. Put in airtight container and set aside.
Roasted Tomatoes. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes or until start to wrinkle and release their juices
Zoodles. With a spiralizer, make the zucchini noodles. *Lightly salt the zoodles and rest in between paper towels. This allows the zoodles to release some of their moisture (zucchini has a very high water content) so the zoodles do not release excess water into the sauce. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and red pepper flakes in a large skillet. Add noodles and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Bring it all together. Add about 1/2 of the pesto to the noodles. Toss until all of the zoodles are coasted in the sauce. Divide the noodles between 4 bowls. Top with roasted tomatoes and chopped walnuts.
To serve 4 people, it will take 4-5 large zucchinis. The noodles break down significantly once spiralized and cooked.
There will likely be extra sauce which will store in your fridge for 3-4 days.
*Salt the zoodles at least a half hour before cooking so they have time to release all of their excess water. Use a cheese cloth or extra paper towels rot squeeze out the excess water after the noodles have rested (be gently so you do not break or crush the zoodles)