Restaurant Style Salsa

During the summer, I make fresh pico de gallo. But when tomatoes are not in season I actually to use canned tomatoes to make salsa. I love the recipe for “restaurant style salsa” by the Pioneer Woman. It’s simple and delicious. She calls for adding a bit of sugar but I just leave it out to make it compliant. You can see the original recipe here. Just ignore the part where she says to eat the salsa with cheese nachos if you are doing whole 30 😛 I use this salsa on pretty much everything- eggs, carnitas, on plantain chips, or with grilled meats. It has definitely become a staple item in out home.



Restaurant Style Salsa

Restaurant Style Salsa– adapted from the Pioneer Woman’s recipe

1  14.5 ounce can of fire roasted tomatoes
2  10 Ounce Rotel diced tomatoes with Green Chilies- any variety depending on your preferred spice level.
1/2 yellow onion diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 whole Jalapeno, quartered and sliced thinly- I leave the seeds in too.
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 whole lime juiced
Salt to taste

Kitchen equipment needed:
Food processor or blender

  1. Combine whole tomatoes, Rotel, onion, jalapeno, garlic, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like. Refrigerate salsa for 30 minutes.



3 ripe avocados
1 lime juiced
1 small red onion diced
1 clove garlic minced
2 Roma tomatoes seeded and diced
A couple tablespoons of cilantro chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
A dash of ground cayenne pepper
A dash of ground cumin
Kitchen equipment needed:
Mixing bowl

  1. Prepare the onion, garlic, tomatoes, and cilantro as stated above and place in mixing bowl.
  2. Cut the avocados in half, remove the seed then make 3-4 cuts with a knife lengthwise and widthwise on each half. Use a spoon to scoop the avocados into the mixing bowl with the other vegetables.
  3. Add the lime juice, salt, cayenne and cumin. Mix everything together well. Use the back of the spoon to mash some of the avocado chunks. You can mash a lot if you want a smoother guacamole or leave chunkier if you prefer.

Tostones (fried plantains)


1 large green plantain peeled and sliced into ½ inch rounds
3 Tablespoons of coconut oil
Garlic salt for seasoning

Kitchen equipment needed:
Cast iron skillet
Glass for flattening plantains

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Place the plantains in the oil and fry on both sides; approximately 3 1/2 minutes per side.
  2. Remove the plantains from the pan and flatten the plantains by placing a glass over the fried plantains and pressing down. You may want to brush the bottom of the glass with some coconut oil the plantains from sticking.
  3. Return them to the hot oil and fry 1 minute on each side or until crispy and lightly browned. Sprinkle with garlic salt to taste and serve immediately.

Smoky Apple BBQ Sauce

I made this BBQ sauce to go with some cast iron chicken legs but it really goes great with any grilled meat or on pulled pork.

Smoky Apple BBQ Sauce

Smoky apple BBQ sauce
1 can tomato paste
1/3 cup apple sauce- you can use unsweetened, already prepared applesauce or make your own by following the directions below
1 large, dried ancho pepper
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon ghee
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon salt

Kitchen equipment needed:
Small sauce pan
Garlic press
Stick blender or blender

  1. Start by making applesauce- see below
  2. While the applesauce is cooking, remove the stem from the ancho pepper and soak it with some boiling water until it is soft- about 5 minutes. Drain the water.
  3. Blend the tomato paste, ancho pepper, applesauce, vinegar, paprika, cayenne, and salt into a smooth paste.
  4. Heat the ghee in the saucepan on medium-high heat. Crush the garlic and fry it in the ghee for 15-20 seconds.
  5. Add in the tomato mixture into the sauce pan, mix well, turn the heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes.


For the applesauce:
1 gala apple
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ cup water
A dash of cinnamon

Rinse, peel, and dice the apple into small chunks. Place the apple in a small sauce pan with the lemon juice, water, and cinnamon. Simmer on medium-high heat for approximately 20 minutes. After the apples are tender use a stick blender or blender to make a smooth sauce.

Harissa (spicy chili pepper paste)

We love spicy food at our house. I fell in love with Harissa when I ate at Cava Grill- which is a Mediterranean restaurant in Maryland. I did a little more research on the spicy paste and found actually a North African condiment and there are tons of different ways of making it. I’m pretty sure there is no wrong way of making it. In my version, I added some parsley, mint, and lemon to make it a bit more complex.


Harissa (spicy chili pepper paste)


4 sundried tomatoes packed in oil
3 mini red bell peppers or ½ red bell pepper- seeds removed and roasted
4 ounces dried chilies- see notes below
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons dried mint
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 ½ teaspoons coriander
1 clove of garlic peeled
½ teaspoon lemon zest
Lemon juice
2 Tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling


Kitchen equipment needed:
Food processor


  1. Start by roasting the red pepper. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle the pepper with a little olive oil and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes or until softened and browned on the outside skin. Once cooled- peel and seed the pepper and place in the food processor.
  2. Place the dried chilies on a bowl. Add boiling water to cover and let peppers rehydrate for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes- drain and remove the stem and seeds from the chilies and place in a food processor.
  3. Meanwhile, measure out the caraway, cumin and coriander. Dry roast the spices in a sauce pan over medium heat until slightly toasted and fragrant. Once slightly cooled- grind the spices with a mortar and pestle.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients to the food processor- tomatoes, spices, garlic, parsley, mint, lemon, olive oil- and blend until you get a thick, smooth paste. You may have to stop the food processor a couple of times to scrape down the sides.
  5. Store in an airtight jar or container and top the sauce with a thin layer of olive oil.


Note on chilies: I’ve hear that any type of dried chili works fine for this paste. I used 2 ounces of ancho and 2 ounces of guajillo chilies to make mine. I suggest checking out this page that I found when I was making some of my own chorizo and wasn’t sure what chilies to use. It lists the chilies by heat level. I would, however, suggest staying away from super-hot peppers like habaneros or tiny hot Thai chilies. We usually buy our dried chilies in the international section of our local grocery store or at Mexican markets.


I’ve used this sauce in a variety of ways. As an extra sauce on salads, mixed with mayonnaise to make a sandwich spread, as a dipping sauce for parties, or brushed on grilled meats. I made an awesome Mediterranean chicken salad with harissa, marinated red onions, tahini dressing, grilled chicken, olives, and salad greens. Here’s what it looks like. I linked to all the other recipes related to this meal too so you can check them out.

Quick Marinated Red Onions

Marinated onions are awesome. The recipe is simple no matter the style you want- thinly sliced onions and marinated them in a mixture of vinegar and seasonings with just a touch of sweetness. I made some delicious marinated yellow onions to top my Vietnamese Shaking Beef Salad. I plan on playing around with the recipe a bit to make different styles. I usually use marinated onions on salads but they would be equally great on sandwiches or on a appetizer tray- think olives, pickles, meats, veggies and maybe some dips.


Quick Marinated Red Onion

Quick Marinated Red Onions

Date paste of 1 date
½ cup white wine vinegar
¼ cup water
1 red onion thinly sliced into rings
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Soak the date in a little hot water to soften. Once softened, drain the excess water. Blend with a stick blender or in blender to get a smooth paste.

As a note: I usually blend a batch of dates, usually 8-10 per time and store the finished paste in an airtight container in my refrigerator. When I have a recipe that needs date paste I usually measure about a Tablespoon per date needed in the recipe. Of course you can adjust the sweetness of any recipe by either adding more or leaving a little out.

  1. Combine the date paste, vinegar, water, salt, & pepper. Mix well to incorporate the dates into the liquid.
  2. Add the onions and make sure to coat well with the vinegar.

Place into the refrigerator and let marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Here they are on a Mediterranean Grilled Chicken Salad.

Mediterranean Grilled Chicken Salad

As you can see if you compare the color of the onions shown on the salad versus the picture of the onions by themselves- the longer the onions marinate the more the color changes from purplish on the outside and white on the inside to a uniform pink color. The picture with just the onions had been marinating about 2-3 days before I took the picture. The onions on the salad were only marinating about 45 minutes before I took the picture. They taste great either way.

Herb Tahini Dressing

Now that the weather is getting warmer I’ve been wanting to eat more salads. I never realized before doing whole 30 how much better I feel eating seasonally. I try to eat mostly organic and in season but out of season produce is something I think we all partake in. Anyways, with salad comes dressing. I feel like having a couple of varieties of dressing on hand help me to consume a larger amount of veggies.  I made this tahini dressing to go with a Mediterranean chicken salad but it can really go on anything if you ask me.


Herb tahini dressing

Herb Tahini dressing
3 Tablespoons tahini
3 Tablespoons water
Juice of ½ lemon
1 clove of garlic- crushed
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Paste of 1 date
4 fresh mint leaves
A small handful of parsley- chopped
Olive oil for drizzling

  1. Soak the date in a little hot water to soften. Once softened, drain the excess water and place in a cup for blending with a stick blender or into a blender or food processor.
  2. Add the tahini, water, lemon juice, date, garlic, salt, mint and parsley into a cup for blending with a stick blender or into a blender or food processor. Blend until you get a smooth dressing.
  3. Drizzle a little olive oil in and blend once more to incorporate.

Basic Marinara

I’ve found a few whole 30 compliant marinara sauces at the store and use them occasionally when I am in a hurry to make a meal. One really has to study the ingredients on the jar because a ton of them are full of added sugar. If I have time, or have meal plan then l I try to make my own sauce. Here is the basic recipe I have been making.



2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 large cloves garlic – minced
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2- 28 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
6-8 large fresh basil leaves cut into a chiffonade

Kitchen equipment needed:
1 large sauce pan
1 large splatter guard
Wooden spoon for stirring

  1. Heat the sauce pan over medium-heat. Add the olive oil and once warmed add in the minced garlic. Sautee the garlic for about a minute. You want the garlic to soften but not really browned.
  2. Add the vinegar around to coat the garlic and scrape off any bits that have stuck to the pan. Continue to cook the simmer the vinegar until it is mostly thickened and reduced by at least half.
  3. Add in the crushed tomatoes, kosher salt, and oregano and stir well. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover then pan with the splatter guard.
  4. Simmer the sauce for 45 minutes stirring occasionally. The sauce will be thickened and the volume of the sauce will be reduced quite a bit.
  5. Once sauce is at the desired consistency stir in the basil leaves. Adjust the salt if necessary.


I’ve used this basic marinara on top of spaghetti squash, zoodles, chicken pieces, or Italian sausages. It’s simple and versatile. Many times I add a variety of vegetables to the finished marinara before serving to make it a bit heartier.  Here I added some spinach, kale, mushrooms, and onions.




Making Homemade Mayo and Ghee

When I am on Whole 30 preparing just a couple of homemade items goes a long way. There are plenty of great homemade sauces out there and I have made quite a few but mayonnaise and ghee are the two most important for me. Both are simple to make. Plus, making your own helps to ensure that you know it is 100% Whole 30 compliant. There are plenty of resources out there to tell you how to make them and you can find several other recipes by doing a Google search.

It’s very easy to make your own mayonnaise- especially if you have a stick blender like I do. Seriously, it only takes a couple of minutes. It is a great base for dressings, sauces, and salads (egg salad, tuna salad, and chicken salad).

I use my stick blender to make sauces, soups, gravy and mashed side dishes like cauliflower or sweet potatoes. I highly suggest getting one. It’s smaller and more versatile than using my blender to do these whipping tasks. There are tons stick blenders available on Amazon. When we got married we got a great set that included the stick blender, 4 different blades, an immersion cup, a whisk, and chopper with a lid. It’s this Miallegro. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be for sale on Amazon right now. To be honest you could go slightly less expensive by forgoing the extra attachments. I rarely use the whisk and chopper attachments.  I do use the actual stick blender and immersion cup quite often though.



Easy Stick Blender Mayonnaise

Ingredient list:
1 egg yolk from large egg
1 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard- make sure it is compliant!
1 cup extra light olive oil
¼ teaspoon of kosher salt

Kitchen supplies needed:
Stick blender with immersion blender cup
Measuring spoons
1 cup, spouted measuring cup- I like Pyrex

  1. Place egg yolk, water, lemon juice, mustard, and salt at the bottom of the cup.
  2. Pour the oil on top of other ingredients in the cup.
  3. Let all the ingredients settle for 45 seconds.
  4. Place head of the stick blender all the way at the bottom of the cup. Switch the blender on and slowly lift the head of blender and tilt as necessary until all the oil has been emulsified.
  5. Store finished mayonnaise in a jar in the refrigerator for about a week.


There are a lot of recipes that call for a room temperature egg. I’ve honestly never done this. I have found that the most important step to getting good mayo using this recipe is to let the ingredients settle before blending them. If you don’t have a stick blender there are recipes online that give you instructions how to whisk by hand. Of course there are many different ways of making mayo- some use the egg white too, some use different oil. I suggest experimenting a little to find one you like most. If you haven’t done so, check the Whole 30 website for mayo and dressing recipes.


One creamy dressing I enjoy making from this mayo which is a zesty ranch. Again, there are tons of ways to make ranch dressing and you can find several other recipes by searching online. I started by getting inspiration for ranch dressing on the Whole 30 website. But I experimented a bit by adding a few other things and put my own flair on it. There is no wrong way to make ranch dressing. Here is how I make mine.

ranch dressing

Zesty Ranch Dressing

Ingredient list:
½ cup mayonnaise- recipe above
¼ cup coconut milk
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon of each fresh dill, fresh chives, fresh parsley and minced shallot – all finely minced

Mix all ingredients together. I use a few pulses with my stick blender to combine. Store in a clean, dry container and store in the refrigerator.




Ghee adds flavor and fat to foods and is a good source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).  Clarifying butter removes the lactose and casein from the butter. It also a great, high temperature cooking oil. You can buy already prepared ghee, but I like making my own.

Ingredient list:
1 pound unsalted, grass-fed butter (I like Kerrygold)
Kitchen supplies needed:
Medium sauce pan
Fine mesh strainer
Paper towel or cheese cloth

  1. Cut up butter into smaller pieces and place in a medium sauce pan on medium-high heat.
  2. Bring butter to a boil and the reduce heat to medium- the butter will foam and bubble.
  3. Simmer for approximately 8 minutes. The butter will look golden and there won’t be much more foaming and bubbling. Also, there will be browned milk solids at the bottom of the pan.
  4. Pour the butter through a fine mesh strainer lined with a paper towel or cheese cloth and into a heatproof container.
  5. Store the ghee in a clean, airtight container. It does not need to be refrigerated. The ghee will keep in the airtight container for up to a month.

Here are a few pictures of the process:



Try to control yourself and not turn the heat up higher than medium-high. Making ghee doesn’t take that long and burned ghee sucks. Also, I have accidentally put my jar of ghee in the refrigerator after I’ve made it. This is fine, but I suggest that once you’ve put in in there continue to store in in the fridge.


A few quick and easy side dishes

I’ve outlined just a few of my favorite side dishes that I use often. Some, but not all of them, follow a general trend- cut veggies up, toss with oil and seasonings then roast them in the oven. I usually make my sides in large batches and have them in the fridge ready to reheat and eat next to my protein.


oven roasted broccoli

Oven roasted broccoli

1 pound broccoli florets
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Kitchen supplies needed:
Baking sheet

  1. Preheat oven 425 degrees F.
  2. Rinse and chop broccoli into desired sized florets.
  3. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl then spread evenly over baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes. The florets will be tender and will be slightly browned.



Oven Roasted Brussels sprouts

2 pounds Brussels sprouts
1 Tablespoon melted ghee
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Kitchen equipment needed
Baking sheet

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Wash and trim hard end of each sprout and remove tough outer leaves then slice each sprout in half.
  3. Toss sprouts with ghee and season with salt and pepper then spread evenly over the baking sheet.
  4. Roast in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes or until tender.



Roasted carrots

Roasted carrots

2 pounds carrots
1 Tablespoon melted ghee
Salt and pepper to taste

Kitchen equipment needed
Baking sheet

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Wash carrots, cut off ends and slice them into approximately 1 inch lengths. If the carrots are very large you can cut each length in half.
  3. Toss carrots with ghee, salt, and pepper.
  4. Roast in preheated oven for approximately 25 minutes or until tender and slightly browned.



Cauliflower Rice

2 Tablespoons ghee
1 head of cauliflower
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small onion cut into a small dice (optional)

Kitchen equipment needed:
Food processor or box grater
Large skillet with lid

  1. Remove outer leaves from cauliflower then rinse and cut into florets.
  2. Use a food processor or box grater to process florets into “rice sized” pieces.
  3. Heat ghee in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  4. If using onion, sauté onion for approximately 3 minutes, if not using onion go directly to step 4.
  5. Add cauliflower and mix well with ghee.
  6. Turn heat down to medium heat, cover with lid and sauté for about 5 minutes or until cauliflower is tender but not mushy. Season with salt and pepper.