Reset your diet for the new year with the help of this sheet-pan salmon and veggies
My husband George and I are exactly eight days into a “new year, new you”-inspired health kick. We eat healthily (for the most part) and exercise regularly, but there’s something about a fresh new year, and a fresh new decade, that really inspired us to reset our health goals and go all in on making big changes to our diet.
Specifically, we—along with seemingly every other person I follow on Instagram—are in the midst of the now-famous Whole30. Before you stop reading, don’t worry! This recipe is not Whole30, but it does include substitutions that will make it such.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, “Whole30” is a 30-day diet that does not like to be called a diet, but instead a lifestyle program. It definitely feels like a diet, given that it eliminates alcohol, sugar, dairy, and all of the other delicious food groups that we stuffed our faces with during the holiday season.
What I appreciate about the Whole30, versus a traditional diet, is that there’s absolutely no calorie-counting or rationing involved. Rather, you’re simply cutting out many of the food groups that are known for causing issues such as headaches, bloating, and weight gain.
So what can you eat during a Whole30? To put it simply, you should eat only things that are found in nature: meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and so on. There are exceptions to this—such as that you cannot eat legumes (most beans, though green beans are allowed), and you can have olive oil, which is a processed ingredient—but that’s the gist.
Many people find that cutting out those other food groups makes them feel lighter, more lucid, and all around better, and continue to omit them from their diets after the 30 days are up. Others, like me and my husband, simply use the Whole30 as a reset to cleanse our bodies of the alcohol and sugar that they’ve come to expect and in many ways have become addicted to.
This is our second Whole30 adventure; the first one was two years ago, also in January. We both absolutely loved it—we slept well, our workouts felt great, our skin was clear. It pretty much delivered on all of the benefits that it promised. It was the perfect reset after the holiday season in 2017, and so far is proving to be a great way to kick off our 2020.
Since we loved it so much, you might be wondering why we waited an entire two years before embarking on another. Well, despite the fact that one of the core principles of Whole30 is “This is not hard,” it is safe to say that it is time-consuming.
Every single meal pretty much has to be home-cooked, to ensure that none of the forbidden ingredients are used (restaurants often sneak butter and sugar into dishes that you wouldn’t think of in order to make them tastier!), so a lot of meal planning, prep, and actual cooking is required.
For this reason, I highly recommend embarking on the Whole30 with a partner, whether that’s a girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse, roommate, parent, or co-worker. It will be so much easier if you have a buddy to share the task of finding recipes, and then actually cooking said recipes.
Added bonus: I have several friends who rarely cooked with their spouse prior to doing the Whole30, but say it inspired them to start cooking together on a more regular basis once they learned a few simple recipes that they loved. Given that this column is all about getting you and your partner into the kitchen together, I love that!
Which brings us to this week’s Table for Two recipe: sheet-pan salmon with cauliflower rice, green beans, and a creamy honey mustard sauce. Three separate meal components all cooked together on one sheet pan, plus an addictive sauce that you’ll find yourself putting on everything from sandwiches to roasted veggies.
For maximum weeknight ease, I recommend purchasing your cauliflower already riced (fresh or frozen will both work in this recipe). If you can’t find any at your grocery store, buy a bag of cauliflower florets and pulse them up in your food processor in two batches so that you don’t overcrowd the processor.
Throw that on the sheet pan, toss it with some olive oil and seasonings, and make room for the green beans, which are similarly tossed with oil and seasonings.
Like I said, Whole30 is a marathon, involving a lot of cooking at home, so George and I have been tackling the meal prep and dinnertime routine together even more than usual. Dinner prep time coincides with baby sleep prep time, so I typically handle the first part of a recipe, while George acts as the closer. I set a timer for 10 minutes, tell George to listen for it and add the salmon when it goes off, and disappear into the nursery.
After the cauliflower rice and green beans roast for 10 minutes, you toss them, then scooch things around so that you can fit the two salmon filets. The sheet pan goes back into the oven for 8–10 minutes.
While the salmon cooks, you’ll stir up the sauce, a creamy number made with Greek yogurt, Dijon mustard, and honey. Without the sauce, this dish is incredibly simple, verging on the edge of boring. The seasonings are purposefully simple—I wanted this to be really easy to throw in the oven, and I wanted the sauce to play a starring role.
Here’s where you have to diverge if you’re on Whole30, where dairy (Greek yogurt) and sugar (honey) are not allowed. Swap in coconut or almond yogurt for the Greek, omit the honey, and use a pinch of garlic powder instead of the Dijon mustard, which usually contains white wine.
Divide everything up between two plates, dollop (or drizzle, if you’re going the Whole30 route), the sauce on top, garnish with some extra herbs, and gobble it up, relishing in the fact that the delicious, hearty meal you’re eating is also incredibly healthy!
Sheet Pan Salmon With Cauliflower Rice, Green Beans, and Creamy Honey Mustard Sauce
- 1 pound cauliflower rice (fresh or frozen)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 pound fresh green beans, trimmed
- 2 (4–6 ounce) skin-on salmon filets
- 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped soft herbs (such as dill, basil, parsley, or cilantro), plus more for garnish
- Optional: flaky sea salt
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Toss the cauliflower rice on a rimmed sheet pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and garlic powder. Scooch it to the side so that it’s in about a 1/2-inch thick layer and only taking up about three-fourths of the sheet-pan.
Add the green beans to the empty part of the sheet-pan and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Bake for 10 minutes.
Remove sheet-pan from oven. Toss the green beans and cauliflower rice, then move the cauliflower rice to the sides, leaving an empty space to place your salmon filets. Add the salmon filets to the sheet-pan skin-side down, not touching. Season the salmon with a big pinch of salt and pepper, then drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon olive over top.
Return sheet-pan to the oven and roast for 8–10 more minutes, depending on doneness preference. I like my salmon medium-rare, so I roast it for 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together Greek yogurt, honey, Dijon mustard, fresh herbs, and a small pinch of salt.
Use a spatula to divide the cauliflower rice, green beans, and salmon between two plates. Serve with a big dollop of sauce and garnish with fresh chopped herbs and flaky sea salt.
The cauliflower rice, green beans, and salmon are purposefully seasoned very simply; the sauce gives you the big flavor. You can easily season things more aggressively—Cajun seasoning on the salmon is always a favorite of mine—or switch out the sauce for some store-bought tzatziki, pesto, or teriyaki sauce.
To make this recipe with chicken instead, add bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts or boneless, skinless chicken thighs to the pan at the very beginning, to roast for the entire 20 minutes. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts would need 15 minutes; swordfish about 15 minutes; and a lighter, flaky fish like cod about 7 minutes.
Asparagus would work well in place of green beans, but should be added with the salmon to roast for only the final 10 minutes.
Caroline Chambers is a recipe developer, food writer, and author of “Just Married: A Cookbook for Newlyweds.” She currently lives in Carmel, Calif., with her husband, George, and baby boy, Mattis. Follow her on Instagram for cooking tips and snippets from her life in Northern California @carochambers