Making the most of Memorial Day weekend!

Ok, so long weekends are the best right?! I don’t think there is one person that I talked to today that wasn’t excited about having a little extra time this weekend to spend with family, friends, or soaking up the Arizona heat.

Summertime holiday weekends are typically filled with cookouts and fun activities, but do you ever get sick of the same old hamburger, hot dog, potato salad menu? Don’t get me wrong, I love a good potato salad, but sometimes I just want something a little different!

Today I’m going to pull some of my favorite recipes for cookouts and summer time parties. I’m also going to give you some tips on how to liven up these recipes even more and tailor them to whatever function you are attending or hosting!

  1. Instead of regular burgers, try these turkey burgers with a fun twist!

Simple Turkey Burger

  • For a spicy flare, add 1/2 can of green chilies, a sprinkle of shredded cheddar cheese, a and a pinch of chili powder.
  • For a more salty/savory burger, mix in 1 Tsp of dried thyme and 1/4 cup of crumbled feta cheese!

2. Instead of regular pasta salad, try this creamier avocado pasta salad!

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Creamy Avocado Pasta Salad

  • Add various veggies that you enjoy; you don’t have to just stick to what is in the recipe! Try cooked green beans, snack peas, red pepper, etc!

3. For dessert, skip the typically cupcakes or cookies and go for something fun, festive,           and light!

Banana ‘Nilla Party Parfait

  • Add different fruit that fits the occasion. For example, for Memorial day, add blue and red fruit (such as strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries) for a more patriotic look!

4. Need another side that will keep well for leftovers? Take a spin off the normal salad!

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Fresh and Fast Lemon Broccoli Salad

  • Swap the golden raisins for cranberries or use green apple instead of Gala for a more “tart” and crisp bite!

 

 


Pomegranate Spinach Salad. Festive, Simple, Satisfying!

Happy New Year everyone! Goodness is it just me, or were the holidays a little overwhelming this year? Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with family and friends, but for some reason all of the other things that come with the holidays (traffic, shopping, planning, coordinating, large crowds, expenses…) seemed to be 10 times more stressful this year.

So now that its a new year, lets talk about how we can truly make 2016 the best year for you. I’m not talking about resolutions, fad diets, killing yourself at the gym for hours each day for a few weeks and then calling it quits. I’m talking about real lifestyle changes; making healthy eating fun; not depriving yourself; not developing a poor relationship with food just to loose those 2 or 3 extra holiday pounds; taking 2016 and turing it into your next chapter of good health and happiness! Are you ready?

Lets start with the salad talk.

We all know my thoughts on eating your veggies, BUT making changes towards healthy eating does not mean you need to eat salads for each meal (I mean… that has to sound boring doesn’t it?). While I love a good salad for lunch, you best believe I also love a good veggie-packed sandwich, a hearty bowl of soup, or even a little platter of dips, wheat crackers, veggie sticks, fruits, cheeses, and nuts. Like I said, you have to change it up every now and then!

So, lets say you do want to have a salad as one of you main meals…. great! Let’s talk about how to spruce that up and give yourself some flavor, some color, and something to get a little more excited about then a few green leaves with shredded carrots and croutons…..yuck.

I made this salad on Christmas Eve to bring to my in-law’s. Let’s just say, I brought home a completely empty bowl. Color, texture, contrast… these are all things you should take into consideration when trying to jazz up what could be a very boring dish (especially if your not normally a veg head). I love a good crunch and I love the combination of sweet and savory. This simple salad provides all of these things… a little sweetness, a little crunch, and a lot of flavor. It is the perfect start to your new look on eating healthy; not boring and very simple! Enjoy!

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Pomegranate Spinach Salad

Ingredients: serves 8-12

  • 1 bag spinach
  • ~1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (I used 1 large pomegranate)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3/4 green apple, chopped
  • 1/4-1/3 cup goat cheese
  • light pomegranate dressing (I used Simply Dressed)

Mix all ingredients except the dressing. This salad is best when dressed at the last second. Spinach can easily become soggy and the goat cheese is very creamy, so try to wait as long as possible to dress your dish to assure the spinach stays crisp!

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Easy Roasted Vegetable Fall Salad

I’m back!!!!!!! Sheesh, I hope I do not move for at least another 5 years, because that move completely wore me out. Don’t get me wrong; the sunshine, having my own bathroom, and amazing beautiful new kitchen are great consolations for the grueling 3 days it took to get it all situated. Oh, and did I mention I haven’t had internet or cable for a week? Hense why I have been missing!

Now that I am back, let me tell you about the fantastic salad that I made the other night. I know what your probably thinking… another salad. How exciting could it be? Well, I think it was fantastic, and it encompassed a few of my favorite foods which I typically don’t mix together: sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, and feta cheese (everything is better with a little feta!).

One of my favorite things about fall is roasting vegetables. I eat sweet potatoes all year long, but there is something about a warm oven roasting a pan of veggies and combining them with other cool, fresh ingredients that is comforting, warming, and puts a smile on my face. I love mixing temperature when preparing a dish as well as textures. I think a little crunch can add an extra something to a dish that would otherwise be bland or a shocking hot vegetable on a bed of cool greens can intrigue your taste buds.

For this salad, I combined sweet potato with fresh brussel sprouts in a roasting pan on 375 degrees. I prefer roasting at a lower temperature, rather that upwards of 400 or 425. I think the vegetables cook through better and brown at a slower rate, giving the inside plenty of time to soften. The sweet potatoes turned a light golden brown, and the brussels got crispy on the edges of the leaves.

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My protein of choices was a lean chicken breast, which I seasoned with garlic powder, dried thyme, basil, and oregano.

I chose feta cheese due to its salty, strong flavor. I don’t typically use salt when I cook, so choosing a salty cheese still allows the flavor without adding the seasoning.

I hope that you try a roasted vegetable salad as the weather turns cool and enjoy and the flavors that fall has to offer! Choose vegetables that you enjoy, and don’t be afraid to combine things that you may not normally combine. Enjoy, and happy cooking!

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sweet potato; diced into about 1/2 x 1/2in. cubes
  • 1/2-3/4 cup fresh brussel sprouts, whole
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • veg seasonings: garlic poder, chili powder, paprika, a pinch of dried thyme
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
  • 3oz chicken breast
  • chicken seasonings: garlic powder, dried thyme, dried basil, dried oregano (be careful with the oregano; it can be overpowering!)
  • 2 Tbsp of your favorite light dressing (I used a light roasted red pepper)

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Toss your cubed sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts in about 2 Tbsp of olive oil and seasonings. If you prefer a different seasoning blend, feel free to switch it up. Also prepare your chicken breast at this time by spraying it with a little cooking spray on each side and seasoning the face up side. You can cook both the veg and the chicken at the same time, just make sure to use separate trays. Cook your veg for about 25 minutes, flipping the vegetables 1-2 times in between cooking. Check your chicken at 25 minutes; if cooked through, remove from the heat. If not, cook for about 5 more minutes. Once your chicken and vegetables have been removed from the oven, allow the chicken to rest while you prepare your greens, feta, and place your vegetables atop the greens. Slice your chicken into thin strips and place on top of the vegetables. Lastly, dress with a light dressing of your choice. Enjoy!


Shifting to Summer

I’m sure not everyone is as excited when 70 degrees rolls around, but for me after this terrible Ohio winter, seeing even 60 on the thermometer gets me feeling energized and ready to get outside. After being cooped up all winter, I’m sure you’ve seen some changes in your eating habits (at least I do). Being cold and being cooped up inside triggers my brain to do one thing, and that is eat. Not only does your body naturally need a little extra insulation during those cold winter months (causing the munchies to come around a bit more often), but you are also bored! And what can boredom often lead to… mindless eating. 

With the warm weather creeping in, use this new exciting, and fresh weather to transition some of those not so favorable winter eating habits into healthy, fresh, summer ones. Not only can you get outside, enjoy the new warmth on your skin, and get in a little physical activity, you can also embrace the tastes, textures, and colors of summer foods. Fruits will be sweeter, vegetables have a little more crunch, and the possibilities for grilling and utilizing the freshest ingredients are endless. Here are my top 4 weekly summer must-haves when it comes to preparing dinner each night. Any of these can be whipped up in a few minutes, are versatile, and can be used to showcase the tastes of summer!

1. SALADS: I know this may seem a little cliche`, but come on. What better to start off a meal each night then a big bowl of colorful fresh fruits, vegetables, or even make it an entree and add in some protein. I’ve said many times how I love combining sweet fruits with either salty nuts or cheese to top a salad, and summer is the perfect time to experiment. Take some chopped romaine, arugala, and baby spinach and top with crunchy walnuts, slivered mandarin oranges, feta cheese, and same shaved radishes. Dress with a light raspberry vinaigrette and you have the perfect basic summer salad to add to any entree. Want to make this an entree? Add some grilled chicken, grilled fish, or even grilled tofu and you have taken this basic salad into an entree that is not only light, crisp, and colorful, but provides carb, protein, and a little fat. Talk about satisfaction 🙂 

2. QUESADILLAS: Yes, this is another one of my summertime favorites. Why? Because you can grill them and they taste even better then when pressed. They also form the perfect crust that makes them almost taco like and holds in ingredients tight. Try these combos: grill some portabella mushrooms, onion, and a little red pepper with salt and pepper until tender, add a little shredded mozzarella and grill between 2 tortillas or flatbread, delicious!; grill a chicken breast, slice and add a few tablespoons of goat cheese and a few roasted red peppers, top with a sweet or spicy salsa; a traditional favorite of fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, and sliced tomato made that much better by pressing it between 2 flatbreads or a whole wheat quesadilla on the grill. 

3. BARBECUE SKEWERS: Another extremely versatile dish that can really showcase tastes common to summer. For example, one of my favorites is marinating tofu cubes for about an hour with a sweet barbecue sauce and alternating tofu with pineapple chunks, orange pepper slices, and onions for a sweet and salty skewer. Mix up your proteins and try different fruits as well as veggies. The weirdest combos are often the best! 

4. BURGERS: Whether you eat meat or prefer a meat alternative, burgers are classic for summer, barbecuing, and any type of outdoor celebration. I have already posted numerous recipes for meat-free burgers (take a look at my black bean burger and sweet potato white bean burger!), but here are some ideas for toppings: sliced avocado with a little dijon mustard and shredded mozzarella cheese; grilled mushrooms with a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar and some crumbled feta cheese; granny smith apple slices with a slice of gouda or if you like your meat, a few slices of lean turkey bacon!

I hope some of these ideas sparked your interest in summer cooking! Let me know if you try any and what you like best 🙂

Happy cooking!