Why We Failed the Whole 30 Cleanse

Thinking about doing a Whole 30 Cleanse?

Tips for a Successful Whole30

Well I didn’t do so well at the Whole 30 cleanse… More like a Whole 22 or 23…

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Don’t let this post deter you from doing a Whole 30 cleanse- I really do believe in the health benefits of the Whole 30 and eating a Paleo diet in general.

If you aren’t familiar with the Whole 30, check out this book HERE. I really do believe in the values of this diet.

For some background information, and maybe as a better psychological understanding of the way my brain works… I am a Libra. Whether or not you believe in astrology or horoscopes (I totally drink the Kool-aid), I am definitely the type of personality that jives with the Libra description. I seek balance in all things. I can see all sides of a situation. I am a peace-keeper.

Because I enjoy balance, I am so uncomfortable with extremes. Extreme bad is obvious, but extreme good can give me a bummer-let-down afterwards. Am I impossible to please?!

The Whole 30 cleanse was/is definitely an extreme way of eating (for most people). So I really should have anticipated the difficulty, you would think. I did learn how to create the perfect salad, though. Read about that HERE.

Some things I didn’t expect, and/or would do differently next time:

Just eat the same thing every day and stop trying to be inventive and creative.

Ooph. This is a hard one for me. I don’t know if I have ever made the same meal, exactly the same way, more than once. Well, maybe taco ring on Halloween, that’s a tradition. I am always changing up spices, adding this or that, using up something that’s about to go bad in the fridge.

I also felt like I was at the grocery store every day. This doesn’t have to happen this way. Just eat the same thing for dinner for 3 or 4 days. It’s not that bad. It’s easier. Just do it.

Tips for a Successful Whole30

Next time, I will just eat the same thing for a couple of days. It’s too hard to be doing something new that effects your ENTIRE day, and make every meal unique on top of that. Too much.

Set some ground rules with any whole 30 partners.

My husband is super athletic and fit. He eats salad for dessert. Sometimes I want to punch him.

He was excited to do the Whole 30 with me, and I was glad to have some emotional support, because I did foresee that this would be a bit of a roller coaster!



There are very few foods my husband doesn’t like.. and 90% of them are Paleo/Whole 30 staples. He HATES eggs. Eggs are one thing that I’ve never gotten sick of. He doesn’t like mushrooms or mayo, either. These are definitely a few things I could have used more to jazz up my Whole 30.

I’m the meal-maker in our household. If I made eggs for dinner, and my husband didn’t eat them, I was afraid he would throw in the towel and get a big bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch… which would send me into a downward spiral of self-loathing and depression = HANGRY!

Next time, we will divide and conquer the meal planning/preparing a little bit more.

Try to avoid any holiday or events when picking whole 30 time frame

We did our Whole 30 mid-May through mid-June. It was a terrible (but could have been worse) choice. With all of the open houses and Memorial Day BBQ’s, what a disaster.

There’s nothing more embarrassing to me than a whole group of party-goers talking about what diet you’re on, and what you can and cannot eat, and why are you on a diet any way? And how many times was I asked if I was actually pregnant and covering up the fact that I couldn’t eat or drink anything by being on this diet that no one seemed to have heard of. UGH. (Which actually would be a great cover that I may use when Baby #2 comes along.)

Anyway, it’s hard enough to keep your mind focused on the fact that the Whole 30 is a GREAT thing when you’re passing by a Dairy Queen… I don’t need 30 strangers giving me ammo to can my hard work and mow down an Oreo Blizzard.


Don’t expect perfection on your first try.

This is a tough one for me because I always want to be the best at everything I do, the first time I do it.

The hardest thing about the Whole 30 (for me) wasn’t the food. The food was fine. The hardest thing was being afraid to mess up. I was afraid I would eat something that I (honestly) didn’t know what a no-no. Or that I would be in a situation where I HAD to eat an off-limits food. I even had dreams that I ate ice cream or sweets and I was so disappointed in myself.



So much pressure.

This is probably part of the plan of the diet and breaking the “mental” ties to food. It was definitely the hardest part of the diet, and I think I may be able to deal with it better the second time around.

Which brings me to my next point:

I will do the Whole 30 cleanse again.

One day.

I learned a lot of helpful things, and I really did feel better, even if I gave up early! Perhaps it would have been better if we had done a tester week to get our feet wet, then did the whole Whole 30 a week or two later.

I’m curious if anyone else has some tips – Whole 30 cleanse or other cleanses… please share!

Making a Delicious Salad That You Actually Want to Eat

Making a Delicious Salad That You Actually Want to Eat… Every Time!

I have finally mastered the art of making a delicious salad that is healthy and completed consumed! Yes, it actually can happen!

plate clearing salad

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There are actually 7 components necessary to making a perfect salad every time.

Last summer my husband and I did a Whole 30 (or like, Whole 23…) and I had to get creative. I was tweaking recipes from all my favorite magazines to make them compliant. There were lots of salad recipes that I would try, and make changes when necessary.

That is where I realized:

The 7 Components Necessary to Making a Perfect Salad Every Time!

    1. Pick & prep your lettuce carefully! Most lettuces don’t need much prep besides a good wash (read my post on How to Properly Wash Your Produce HERE), and spin in the old salad spinner (*obsessed with my salad spinner*). If I am using kale (which I use a LOT), I always rub it down with olive oil and a lil’ bit of sea salt. ALWAYS. Trust me, if you’re an anti-kale, just try this step. Rub in down in a tablespoon or two of olive oil and voila! Step one complete to making a perfect salad every time.



2. Add something warm. Perhaps it’s your protein, perhaps it is warm roasted butternut squash, perhaps it’s toasted pecans. You’ve gotta have something warm.

3. Something crunchy. Sunflower seeds, thin carrot slices, celery, croutons. Something crunchy is key.

4. Something salty/savory. BACONNNNN, bleu cheese, pickled veggies, or more bacon.

5. Something sweet! Think: dried cranberries, pomegranate seeds, sliced apples (a go-to for me, since I always have apples in the house for my 3 year old). Maybe its because I have a sweet tooth, maybe it really is the most important step of all…

6. Choose your dressing carefully. I really like to stick with oil/vinaigrette dressings, not creamy, milk-based dressings. (I mean I’m human and ranch is delicious, but I’m trying not to kill my salad.) Panera has a shallot vinaigrette you can get at most grocery stores now, I’m kind of hooked on that lately. It just goes with everything, and I like SIMPLE!



7.Here’s your seventh tip for making the perfect salad every time: don’t double down on your categories. For example, don’t get maple-flavored bacon and count that as sweet, warm, savory, and crunchy. (Because really at that point, just forget the lettuce!!!) Have each category represented, even if you end up having two warm things, or two salty things. Trust me, this is probably the most important step of all!

Nell’s Buttercream Recipe

the best buttercream recipe is great for cupcakes, too!

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In case I never told you, I’m a semi-retired pastry chef.



I have a lot of quick tips and tricks up my sleeve to share with you, including my buttercream recipe.

Do you have any idea how many pounds of buttercream I used to make per week? An insane amount. I don’t even want to tell you.

One thing that used to gross me out a bit is the amount of shortening that goes into frosting. It is just a little unnerving. You won’t find anything except butter in here!

Follow my technique for the best-textured buttercream around, right here! 

This recipe will work great for cakes or cupcakes. You can add in food coloring too, at the very end, if you wish.

best buttercream recipe

Print Recipe
Nell's Buttercream Recipe
Easy-peasy buttercream frosting. You'll wonder why you ever bought that stuff in the can.
Cuisine Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
8" cake worth
Cuisine Dessert
Prep Time 20 minutes
8" cake worth
  1. Beat the softened butter with a hand mixer or stand mixer.
  2. Slowly mix in the powdered sugar, and I mean slowly! On low speed. You do not want a powdered sugar explosion in your kitchen!
  3. Once the sugar and butter is combined, add in the vanilla and salt. Mix for another few minutes before frosting your cake!
  4. You can store the buttercream at room temperature for a day or two, but I usually don't like to make it too far in advance.
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The BEST Buttercream Technique

Wishing for the most dreamiest, creamiest, light, but still thick buttercream? Want a buttercream frosting that goes on your cake or cupcakes (or spoon) perfectly? A no-bubble buttercream?! You have found the best buttercream technique!

the best buttercream technique

You have found the best Buttercream Technique right here!

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If you’re looking for a buttercream recipe, click here for mine… it’s delicious!  Otherwise continue reading for the very best buttercream technique (you can even use your own buttercream recipe!)

best buttercream technique
What you’ll need:

To get the best buttercream, we’ll need a few simple tools.

  1. A sturdy bowl for mixing, it is imperative that this bowl BARELY fits all of your frosting. This means you may want to make your frosting first, then transfer it to a smaller bowl.
  2. A hand mixer. You might be able to get away with your 5qt. Kitchenaid mixer if you have a LOT of frosting. But likely this is a job for a hand mixer. I have/like this one:
    Make sure you’re using the paddle attachments, not the whisk!
  3. Last but not least, your frosting!

To get the most desirable buttercream, put your frosting in the mixing bowl. Completely submerge your mixing paddles in the buttercream. *This is a VERY important step!*

Begin to mix your buttercream. You’ll notice that it looks like air bubbles popping in the top. It will take a few minutes but you’ll be able to tell the top of the buttercream begins to look smooth and swirly and just perfect.

You’re ready to frost!

It is important to use your buttercream right after mixing it. If you come back to your frosting later, you’ll likely need to remix it.

Enjoy your frosting!

Chemical-Free Fruit & Veggie Wash – Ultra Easy, Ultra Cheap!

Ultra Easy, Ultra Cheap Chemical-Free Fruit & Veggie Wash

I have the world’s best and easiest method for cleaning my produce – ultra easy, ultra cheap chemical-free Fruit and Veggie Wash!

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So, my mom always told me to wash my produce before I eat it. Which is good solid advice. But I didn’t really feel like “water” can clean my produce well enough to get rid of all the cooties. (Have you seen what people do at the grocery store?!)

I don’t like the idea of using a “chemical” produce wash because that just seems counter intuitive. I looked at “healthy” veggie washes at the fancy grocery stores, but realized I would be paying top dollar for a mixture I could put together myself.

Ultra Easy Ultra Cheap Chemical-Free Fruit and Veggie Wash

So, I started using vinegar! Just the cheap white distilled vinegar, like this one:

Ultra Easy Ultra Cheap Chemical-Free Fruit and Veggie Wash

I have that one continuously on order from Amazon Prime.

So I came up with Ultra Easy, Ultra Cheap Chemical-Free Fruit and Veggie Wash!

I have a few methods for produce washing, it works for any produce including herbs and lettuces, berries, apples, you name it!

For larger produce items:

Like apples, citrus, potatoes, etc. I like to fill a large bowl with 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. I then soak the produce in the vinegar water solution for a couple minutes, rinse with cool water, and allow to dry.

For Lettuces & Herbs:

Same process as above, but after rinsing with water, I will run them through the salad spinner a couple of times to get as much moisture off as possible. Also note, I don’t wash my leafy greens (especially kale) until right before they’ll be eaten.

If you need a salad spinner recommendation, here’s the one I use:

Ultra Easy Ultra Cheap Chemical-Free Fruit and Veggie Wash

And I love it. I’ll dry my leafy greens, pour out the water, and use the bowl as a big salad bowl = easy + less dishes to wash = happy mom. I even wrote about it here in my “What to Get Mom for Christmas” post!

For Berries:

You’ve got to be a little more delicate here. Berries are very fragile. I like to do a similar method by putting them in a bowl with 1 part vinegar, 3 parts water, but I’ll only wash a small amount at a time so they don’t get crushed (amount I do is equal to the clamshell container you purchase your berries in, typically). Gently rinse the berries and spread them out to dry.

Uniquely shaped produce:

Like pineapples, watermelons, and such. I don’t have a bowl big enough for a gianganto watermelon, so for these items, just use a spray bottle with the same 1:3 ratio, and spritz it down. (I usually let my daughter do this, she loves to spritz things.) Let the item sit for a few minutes, then rinse and dry!

For additional “cleansing properties” I will add a couple of drops of lemon essential oil to my ultra easy, ultra cheap chemical-free fruit and veggie wash! It makes it slightly less cheap and easy, but only by a hair! I like this lemon essential oil by doTerra: 

Ultra Easy Ultra Cheap Chemical-Free Fruit and Veggie Wash

ultra easy ultra cheap chemical free fruit and veggie wash

The Secret Ingredient Pie Crust

You will not believe the Secret Ingredient Pie Crust! Best pie crust I have ever had. The ‘secret ingredient’ isn’t anything obscure, chances are, you have it in your fridge right now!

Secret Ingredient Pie Crust, the best and last pie crust recipe you'll ever need!

I found a recipe quite some years ago that incorporated CREAM CHEESE into  pie crust recipe. I thought to myself… well obviously this must be delicious. Name one thing that cream cheese doesn’t make better….

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I tried the recipe and of course it was delicious. I’ve tweaked it over the years to make it my own, and it has become a solid staple in my kitchen/freezer at all times. The fact that it has so few ingredients, it is so quick and easy to make, AND it is perfect for sweet OR savory dishes (chicken pot pie, anyone?).

I make at least 4 of these at a time (it’s so easy), and I pat them out into round disks, wrap them in plastic wrap, and throw them in the freezer. (Best to let defrost in the fridge… found this out through trial and error.)

The easiest way to make this crust is by using a food processor. You don’t need anything fancy; I use this one that I got for a wedding shower gift 5 years ago, and it works great! I love it. There’s also plenty of room in the bowl part, which I like.

What I’m trying to say is that you do not need to have the world’s most expensive food processor in your pantry. But I AM saying that having a food processor that you like will make this pie crust making task SO easy!

Secret Ingredient Pie Crust, the best and last pie crust recipe you'll ever need

My mom hates making pie crust, she says it is such a pain in the neck. (If you know my mom, then you know that’s not exactly the phrasing she used.) I think making this pie crust is easier than the store-bought kind times a million. Has anyone ever been able to unroll that pie crust without it cracking and breaking and falling apart?!

There is no comparison when it comes to flavor and texture. This crust is hands down the best (and last!) pie crust recipe you’ll ever need.


Print Recipe
Secret Ingredient Pie Crust
Perfect for sweet or savory, novice or pastry chef, this is the best and last pie crust recipe you'll ever need.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Prep Time 15 minutes
  1. Using a food processor, blend softened butter, cream cheese, and salt.
  2. When the cream cheese and butter are properly mixed (you will not see any white chunks of cream cheese, the color will be uniform), add in flour all at once.
  3. With the lid on and secured, pulse the food processor until the mixture resembles a ball of dough. It is important not to over-do this. Because pastry dough is delicate, you don't want to over work the proteins in the flour... this will make your crust tough.
  4. When the dough starts to form a sticky ball, add in your cold water a teaspoon or two at a time. You will notice the dough is less sticky. The cold water is firming that butter and cream cheese back up!
  5. This recipe yields one crust (double it if you want a crust on the top of your pie as well!). Scoop the dough out of the food processor, roll into a ball, then pat down into a disc about 5" across. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least a half hour, or freeze for months!
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Protein Chia Overnight Oats

This is the best recipe for overnight oats – Protein Chia Overnight Oats!
The best overnight oats you will ever have +++ they're healthy & nourishing - Protein Chia Overnight Oats
The best overnight oats you will ever have +++ they’re healthy & nourishing – Protein Chia Overnight Oats

I have tried so many overnight oats recipes that my head could spin. None of them were good enough to make a second time… or even finish the first time! This Protein Chia Overnight Oats recipe will convert all you skeptics!

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Until a couple months ago when my brother’s girlfriend told me about her overnight oats, and that she put Greek yogurt in hers. This is something I had not tried before.

So that night I went home, prepped my oats, tossed it in the fridge, and went to bed. The result the next morning was much better, but it still needed some tweaking so I started to experiment. (Let it be known that my brother’s GF didn’t give me an actual recipe, I’m not hating on her overnight oats skills!)

I wanted my oats to be as nourishing as possible. I also prefer to use almond milk, although I was using Greek yogurt (it that a cooking oxymoron?).

One day I plan to try out the almond milk yogurt that I love.

The best overnight oats you will ever have +++ they're healthy & nourishing - Protein Chia Overnight Oats
The best overnight oats you will ever have +++ they’re healthy & nourishing – Protein Chia Overnight Oats

You’re going to love these Protein Chia Overnight Oats. And the best part – the recipe is just a base, so you can add in whatever toppings you have roaming around your kitchen. My personal favorite add in adding any kind of berries! (I can’t wait to do a fall-inspired mix soon!)

I’m hooked on Bob’s Red Mill old fashion rolled oats which you can find HERE. I just love this company!!!!

I have made up several of these on Sunday night to make my weekdays/workdays a little. The Protein Chia Overnight Oats are so easy to make, but sometimes less thinking in the morning makes for a better morning… amiright?!

I’d love to hear what toppings you come up with for your Protein Chia Overnight Oats – I’m always excited to try new spins on recipes!!


Print Recipe
Protein Chia Overnight Oats
The best overnight oats recipe you'll find - bonus that it is super healthy and nourishing!
Course Breakfast
Cuisine Breakfast
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1-2 minutes
Passive Time 1 night
Additional Toppings (optional)
Course Breakfast
Cuisine Breakfast
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1-2 minutes
Passive Time 1 night
Additional Toppings (optional)
  1. Combine all ingredients (excluding toppings) in a seal-able, microwave safe container.
  2. Use a spoon to stir ingredients together well, or seal with the lid and shake like crazy (like I do!)
  3. Refrigerate oats for several hours/over night.
  4. To heat, remove lid and microwave oats for 30-second increments, until it reaches the perfect temperature.
  5. After heated to your liking, add in additional toppings like berries, spices, protein powder, whatever the mood calls for.
Recipe Notes

You may want to experiment with adding more or less milk depending on your taste. I like to err on the lighter side before refrigerating. It's easy to add more milk, but hard to remove it after the fact!

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How To Make Cake Mix Taste Like Scratch

So I have a degree in culinary arts. I also use cake mix occasionally.

I once saw an episode of Alton Brown (all hail Alton Brown) where he said the secret to the best cake ever is to use cake mix, but ONLY if you make your own frosting.

So that is what I (usually) do. There are some cakes that I will make from scratch, but I almost always use a cake mix, and I’ve gotten pretty crafty with it, too.

Pillsbury is my brand of preference. When I use their White Cake mix, I whip the egg whites like a meringue with very soft peaks and fold it into the batter.

I always make my own frosting – sorry, not really a fan of store bought frosting. I just can’t get into it. Making your own frosting is really one of the easiest things to do. Especially if you have a stand mixer like mine.

Start with room-temp butter, or just a little colder, and whip it until it’s white and fluffy. (Remember, room temperature is different in July than it is in January.) Then, add a pinch of salt (I prefer sea salt, not table salt) and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Next you will add the powdered sugar, about a half a cup at a time… unless you want a big ol’ mess to clean up. After all of the powdered sugar is mixed in, whip it for another minute or so until it’s fluffy.

A secret tip for cake frosting: to get all of the bubble out, use a hand mixer and be sure the whisk part of the paddles are completely submerged in the frosting. (This will also work in your stand mixer if you are making a TON of frosting.) Mix the frosting for a minute or two, and the top with start to look really smooth and soft. This method gets all of the air bubbles out, and the frosting will be so smooth, especially if you’re putting it on a cake.

My Recipe for Buttercream:

2 sticks of Butter (unsalted, softened)

1 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract

Pinch of Salt

4 cups of Powdered Sugar (a little more or a little less)

  1. Whip butter with stand mixer on medium speed. Throw in a pinch of salt and vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides well with a rubber spatula often.
  2. Add in the powdered sugar SLOWLY, like a half a cup at a time. And don’t add more in until it’s mixed in. Keep your rubber spatula scrape downs going on!

You can store the frosting sealed well if you’re not using it right away, although it’s best to use right away.

Toddler decorating action optional.


Really Good Lemonade

So last week, with it being the beginning of July and all, I realized that it’s officially summer. (Duh.)

If you live in Michigan, like me, or anywhere in the mid/east/northern section of the country you’re in a constant up-and-down in the months of February through May. We had 70 degree days in February this year. We also had snow in April. It’s ever changing.

About this time every year I realize, Oh! I need to start enjoying summer now that I know it will officially stick around now! (Also, I’m obsessed with fall, so excited about that, too.)

Every summer I like to make lemonade. I usually only do it once, because I forget how much work it is, and my family chugs it down so it doesn’t really last more than a couple hours. (Which I should really take as a compliment!)

Last week I bought a whole bunch of lemons at the grocery store with the intent of making lemonade, and this morning I came across a recipe that kicked me into action.

I found Sheena’s blog Noshtastic via Pinterest (is there anywhere else to find anything of importance?!) What originally drew me to her site was her attention to food allergies, diseases, and preferences. My husband and I try to eat a mostly-paleo diet, and what I like about Sheena’s recipes is that they are all clearly noted with Vegan, Vegetarian, GF, Paleo, etc. labels, so they’re easy to sort through!

Now this lemonade was definitely not paleo, but OH SO DELICIOUS!

The simpler the recipe the better. I tend to stray away from any recipes with too many ingredients. Sheena’s Fresh Squeezed Lemonade was a perfect fit for this. All you need is sugar, water, and lemon juice.

The only thing I did slightly differently was that instead of putting in 4 -5 cups of cold water at the end, I put in 3 cups of cold water and about 8 ice cubes (#impatient).

The process is quite easy. You can get the full recipe and instructions (and helpful video) here, it was very easy to tackle. So easy that I think I will make it more than once this summer.

Cost comparing, it’s the same or less than store bought lemonade. The lemons cost me $0.33 each (times 7, so $2.31 total), and the sugar… maybe another $0.50. Collectively under $3, and it took less than 10 minutes to make. (It probably would have been quicker if I hadn’t lost the top to my electric citrus juicer!)

This Lemonade is so refreshing. Store-bought has its place but this was definitely a perfect summer treat without comparison.

Here’s a thought. If you’re anything like me then you ashamed that you usually don’t use all of your produce every week. When you have leftover citrus that’s about to go, juice it and pour the juice into ice cube trays and freeze. Then, once you’ve collected an ample supply of citrus juice, use it to make this lemonade. I would love to try this recipe with a mix of oranges, limes, and lemons.