Looking Forward to Summer … Opening Up the Recipe Box!

Ok friends, please don’t think I’m loony but I actually kind of miss summer. Yes, 120 is a lot to swallow sometimes BUT lots of pool time and lost of fresh summer fruits and veg always get my recipe wheels turning. Today’s Thursday so I’m going to pull out some of my old recipes to re-share in hopes to get your summer food senses flowing! Of course, these recipes are great for any other time of the year as well and can maybe help brighten up some cold and gloomy days for my east-coasters (sorry, I’m not sorry I left!).

Quick side note! I have noticed recently that I have been having a lot of bloating, cramping, and discomfort when I eat a lot of grains (you have no idea how upsetting that is for me!!). Unfortunately, Celiac disease runs on my dad’s side of the family, so this has me a little nervous of what is to come in the future. Both my aunt and grandmother were diagnosed with Celiac disease later in life and have since adapted to eating gluten free. Because of these reasons, you may notice me start to play around with a few gluten-free recipes just to test the waters! If anyone has any good recipes to try — please send them my way!

Now, on to those recipes! The first one I’m going to share is one of my absolute favorites because it includes a “sauce” made with one of my favorite foods — avocado! This recipe is for my Creamy Avocado Pasta Salad.

IMG_1259

Creamy Avocado Pasta Salad

  • Servings: 3-4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

Dressing:

  • 1 avocado, fairly soft
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/3-1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • garlic powder (I didn’t measure the seasonings, sorry! add to your best judgement)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • paprika

Salad:

  • 2 cups whole wheat pasta, I used penne
  • 1 small container of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 1/2 cups asparagus, chopped
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese crumbles
  • 1/2 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olive without pits
  • black pepper

Directions

Add all dressing ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside while you prep your other ingredients. Cook your pasta until tender; at the last minute, throw in your chopped asparagus (make sure to chop off the woody, rough end, about 1-2 inches from the bottom). Allow your asparagus to cook for ~2 minutes in the boiling water, then drain both the pasta and asparagus. Set aside to cool.

Chop the rest of you ingredients, including the olives. I halved the olives, but feel free to chop as fine as you like or leave whole. Once pasta is no longer steaming, add the rest of your ingredients to a large bowl and pour in your dressing. Mix until all ingredients are fully coated. Finish with a little sprinkle of black pepper. Serve chilled or lukewarm. Pasta salad will stay good in the refrigerator for ~4-5 days; your avocado may just turn a little brown in color. Enjoy!

Seriously that pasta salad is one of my favs! The sauce is super creamy but light for summer days by the pool! Also, healthy fats — sign me up! Avocado is filled with monounsaturated fat which actually helps lower cholesterol levels and can help provide satiety (feeling of fullness) during a meal or snack. Avocados are also high in Vitamin E, C, and B vitamins, so girls/women reading this — it’s great for hair, skin, and nails!

The second recipe is for my Roasted Summer Vegetable Pizza. This is another one of my favorites because well, who doesn’t like pizza! I use a store-bought whole wheat pizza crust from whole foods and top with yummy summer veggies and a blend of spices and cheeses!

IMG_1449

Roasted Summer Vegetable Pizza

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 prepared whole wheat pizza crust (can also try gluten-free, regular white, or cauliflower crust!)
  • ~1-2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 medium-sized zucchini, sliced into about 1/2 in circles, then cut in half
  • 1/3 cup frozen or fresh corn (you may use yellow, white, or sweet)
  • 1/4 medium red onion, sliced
  • 3/4 cup whole-milk shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/3 cup fresh feta cheese
  • Seasonings: garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, red pepper flakes
  • hummus

Directions

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

If you are using frozen corn, thaw first, if using fresh there is no need to prep. Toss your zucchini, corn, and sliced onion in about 1-2 Tbsp canola oil, black pepper, paprika, and garlic powder (use as much as you like, or you may switch up the seasonings). Roast your veggies in the oven for about 15 minutes or until they are slightly brown and caramelized. Once your veggies have cooked, top your pizza crust with the veggies and 2 different types of cheese. Top with a little extra garlic powder and a pinch of red pepper flake.

*FYI: Red pepper flakes pack a BIG kick in a very little amount, so unless you want your mouth on fire, I caution you from using to much!

Bake your pizza in the oven for ~15 minutes or until the bottom and edges of your crust are a golden brown and have nice, crispy feel. Allow your pizza 5-10 minutes to cool before slicing and digging in! Again, I topped mine with a little fresh hummus, but you can omit that if you’d like. Enjoy!

How about a burger? Burgers are a perfect summertime food, but I tend to be partial to vegetarian versions. This recipe is for my Spinach Feta Black Bean Burgers which I actually came up with a few years ago when I was in college! These were so easy and can be made in advance and frozen for later use!

Black beans are a great source of fiber and can be used as a protein for those who choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. They are creamy in texture and can provide a “meaty” flavor when used for vegetarian burgers!

Spinach Feta Black Bean Burger

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed to get ride of any extra seasoning or liquid that they may be sitting in
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 + 1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • black pepper
  • garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2-3/4 (eyeball, about 1/2 a bag) cups frozen spinach, thawed in the microwave and pressed between paper towels to squeeze out water

Directions

In a large bowl, mash your black beans with a fork until they are fairly smooth. Add the rest of your ingredients and combine well (get your hands dirty — this works best!).

Divide your mixture into 4, forming individual patties. You can wrap and freeze the other 3 to use at another time if you are only cooking for yourself. Cook on medium heat either on a grill or stove-top in a pan with a little cooking spray. Each side should take about 3-4 minutes. Be sure to press down your burger a little when you flip it over! Each side should get a little golden brown. If you still have some of the mixture seeping out of the sides if you push down lightly, cook for a few minutes longer. When finished, top with whatever toppings you like, add your bun, and you are done! I used a little sprinkle of mozzarella cheese, a few extra leaves of spinach, a tsp of dijon mustard, and whole-wheat bread as my bun. Lettuce leaves works well too!

Hope you try one of these out, and of course let me know what you think!

 


Focus on Feeling Fantastic…

Happy November 1st everyone! November is a busy month, and now even more busy that I have additional family! Today is actually my dad’s birthday, tomorrow is my husbands, mine comes around next Friday (the 6th… for those of you wanting to send some warm wishes my way!), and my mom finishes up the start of November with her birthday on the 13th. Actually, I shouldn’t say finish, because we also have other family members with November birthdays as well… talk about a month of celebrating!

I thought I’s start out this month with some positive thinking and putting the whole concept of “healthy eating” into perspective.

I hear it on a weekly basis… “Eating healthy is boring; I want to actually enjoy my food; Vegetables don’t have any flavor; I’m just not a fruit and vegetable person.” The list could actually go on much further, but I don’t want to waste a positive post with negative thoughts. The reason I point out these comments is because people tend to lose sight of why we should eat healthy in the first place. No, I don’t wake up every morning and think “Now how am I going to get in my vegetable servings today?” or  “I wonder how many artificial flavorings or colors are in this cereal….maybe I shouldn’t eat it.” I enjoy a greasy chicken wing or a big old scoop of full-fat ice cream just as much as the next person, but with my focus being “I want to feel the best I can each day,” the chicken wings and the ice cream tend to take a back seat more often than become the driver of my meals.

Focus on feeling fantastic.

Try this. One day, eat the way you know you should, and by that I simply mean: 1. Eat a fruit or a vegetable with each meal, heck… why not have both? 2. Drink mainly water. 3 Cook your own food; use as little processed food as necessary. 4. If it comes from the ground, give it a try! 5. Choose lean protein and maintain variety. See how you feel at the end of the day. My bet would be you feel: energized; awake; light but strong; happy.

The next day, go ahead and eat what you feel “tastes good” or what you desire the most. Whether that be a big old burger, a pizza from your favorite mom and pop shop, a bowl of chips and dip during the big game, or a soda to wash down your meal. Do the same observation at the end of the day. If all goes as it should, you should feel a difference and not a great one.

When we focus on feeling fantastic, the desire to eat foods that don’t contribute to this feeling lesson. Why taint a good mood, a good feeling, or the energy to do what you need to do with your best effort? It just doesn’t seem worth it. Fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants, phytonutrients, fiber, and so much more that is like liquid gold to your body. Pair your plant-based food choices with lean, organic, or minimally processed protein choices and you’ve given your body a map to success.

Focus on feeling fantastic and focus on being your best you! That is healthy living.


Summertime Soups: White Bean & Kale

Who says soups are just for winter? Current temperatures where I live have been averaging between 100-110 degrees every day, yet some how I’m still craving a little bowl of warm, comforting goodness. To satisfy my craving, I made a fairly light soup last night that I could portion out and bring for lunch a few days this week. Even though it wasn’t necessarily a heavy, thick meaty soup, it still gave me that warm, comforting feeling I was looking for. With plenty of fresh Kale and a slightly spicy bite from the nutmeg, my White Bean & Kale soup turned out to be the perfect light, summery soup.

The good thing about most soups is you usually have a lot of room for error. Throw a bunch of ingredients into a pot with a flavorful base and at least 80% of the time it will come out pretty tasty! I like to prepare soups when I’m trying to get  rid of a few things or have a bunch of veggies that are close to going bad. Make your soups in bulk, portion them out, and freeze them for quick lunches or dinners at a later time!

I hope you enjoy this soup, and please feel free to add or delete ingredients and make it your own! Let me know how it goes!

White Bean & Kale Summer Soup: 

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 3-4 cups raw kale ( I left mind as fairly large leaves, but feel free to chop or tear as small as you’d like! )
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 can northern white beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • Garlic powder
  • Black pepper
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Handful of grated parm cheese

soup 1

In a large bowl, bring to a simmer the vegetable broth, water, and carrots. Once the broth is simmering, add your chopped kale, garlic powder, black pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. I typically don’t measure my spices or herbs when cooking, I just do what I like and tastes best to me. My only precaution would be with the nutmeg. Nutmeg has a very distinct flavor and can be quite spicy and earthy if you add to much, so when I say a pinch, I mean a pinch!!

Let your broth and veggies simmer with the lid off for about 30 minutes. After 30-40 minutes or about 1/4 of your liquid has evaporated. Add your rinsed bean, quinoa, and place your lid halfway on so that a little steam is still able to escape. Allow quinoa to cook for about 20-25 minutes.

soup 2soup 3

After your quinoa is fairly cooked through, add any additional spices or seasonings if desired and finish off with a small handful of grated parmesan cheese. Stir in your cheese and turn your broth down to low. Allow your soup to simmer for another 15 minutes to a half hour. The longer it cooks, the thicker the soup will become and the less liquid will remain in the pot. If you want your soup a littler thicker, allow it to simmer for the full extra 30 minutes. I  f you don’t mind it more brothy, turn off whenever you please. Top will a little extra sprinkle of cheese, a piece of chunky bread, a few croutons and enjoy!


Easy Peasy Crockpot Chicken Stew

Oh my goodness it feels like ages since I have written anything. I wish I had a more exciting excuse, but nothing has really changed! Just let time slip away from me I guess!

I figured I would leave a simple, easy recipe that can be made with common household ingredients for todays post. This 1 pot meal is perfectly simple, yet delicious and flavorful. Throw all the ingredients into a crockpot and let simmer on low for 7-8 hours. Don’t forget a little cooking spray on the bottom of the pot to assure your meal end up in your belly and not stuck in the crockpot! Enjoy this Easy Peasy Crockpot Chicken Stew and also… happy Mother’s Day to any fabulous mom’s reading!

Ingredients: (feeds 3-4)

  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • 2 purple carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 small sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 medium sized white onion, chopped
  • 1 small garlic clove, coarsely minced
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • paprika
  • garlic powder
  • black pepper
  • chili powder
  • topping of your choice

Cook time: ~7-8hrs

IMG_1187 IMG_1188 IMG_1189

Lightly spray your crockpot with a little olive oil spray before adding chicken, carrot, sweet potato, beans, onion, garlic, and seasonings. Add 1 cup of water and seal with lid. Allow ingredients to simmer for ~6 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally.

At the 6 1/2 hour mark, add 1/2 cup quinoa and allow to simmer with the lid on for another 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add remaining 1/2 cup water and more seasoning if desired. Allow to cook for another 15-30 minutes or until quinoa is fully cooked. Top with various toppings of your choice such as salsa, avocado, cheddar cheese, cilantro, etc. Enjoy!


Stretching a buck… How to shop smart & keep your healthy lifestyle!

With healthy eating becoming a new and exciting trend, more and more popular health food stores and markets seem to be popping up every couple of blocks. It doesn’t take much to find a spot where you can get local produce or a wide selections of fruits, veggies, and organic products. Maybe you’re really in to buying organic or maybe you just want really, really fresh and tasteful produce. Whatever your motive may be for shopping “healthy”, I’m sure there was a time or two when you’ve walked out of a market or grocery store thinking “how in the world did I spend that much money?!”

Grocery stores do a great job of making you think that they are giving you a great deal on “local” or “organic” produce. Pay a little more attention the next time you browse through the isles of your favorite health food/grocery store and really crunch some numbers in your brain.

“Apples, $0.69 each!”

“Almonds for $3.99.”

“Medium sized bag of chia seeds, only $6.99!”

Now go back and think about that…

Apples for $0.69, sounds great right? Let’s say 5 apples=1lb. Actually, in reality 5 apples is probably closer to 1.5/2 lbs, but we will stay with 1. That means you are paying $3.45 for 5 apples… that doesn’t seem as great when you can get 1lb of grapes for the same price right? How about the chia seeds? A little over-priced as well. Yes they are good for you, but you will use what…. a Tbsp/day max? Why are you paying $6.99 for something that you will barely use?

There was a period of time when I was spending a ridiculous amount of money on groceries. I remember walking out of a grocery store having spent $75 and only had 3 bags in my hand (mind you this was when I was vegetarian as well, so that does not include meat). It was then that I realized I needed to become a little smarter about spending and how I was shopping. Today, I’m going to share with you a few tips for shopping healthy on a budget. Now I spend anywhere from $25-35 dollars each visit to the grocery store, and yes… that does last me over a week AND includes a few chicken breasts here and there. Try using some of these tips and see if it help you shrink your spending instead of shrinking your wallet…happy shopping!

1. Look for a bulk-foods section. Often times you can find a bulk foods section in a grocery store, especially those that are marketed to sell local, fresh, or organic products such as Whole Foods, Sprouts, and even Kroger or Fry’s. This is where I purchase things like chia seeds, almonds or other nuts, and even sometimes trail mixes or specialty granola. Nuts, such as almonds, commonly run from $3.99-$5.99/lb. I typically never get a full pound, I get what looks right to me and what I think will last me about 1 month. When you compare this to that miniature can of almonds for $3.99, you will be shocked at just how much money you were wasting for very little product. This is also a great spot to get sugar, flour, nut butters, etc.

2. Freeze, freeze, freeze and take advantage of a current sale. No, this doesn’t work for everything but it can make a big difference when you do it right! I mainly use this concept with fresh fruit. When fruits like blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, etc. go on sale for “$0.88/pkg” I am all over them. I grab about 3-4 packs, take them home, wash them and cut them if I need to, then put them in a tightly sealed baggie or container and pop them in the freezer. A bag of frozen fruit can cost you anywhere from $2.99-$6.99 depending on the fruit. Make your own and save yourself some dollars!

I also use this concept with bread, bagels, tortillas, or other grain products as well!

3. Feel your fruit and veg. Sounds a little strange I know, but don’t get in the habit of just popping a few cucumbers into a bag or grabbing a bag of apples without feeling it first! If something has even a little bit of give, it will go bad within 3-4 days tops. Don’t waste your dollars just by being lazy! Look for firm skins, bright colors, and few brown spots or bruises to get the longest life out of your produce.

4. Don’t waste your time buying organic if it isn’t necessary. Yes, we’ve all heard of the “dirty dozen” and the “clean 13”. Well those lists were made for a reason! Buying organic just to buy organic isn’t going to help you become a healthier person, it is just going to burn a hole in your pocket that will have little to no repayment health wise. Why do you need an organic pretzel? I can answer that easily for you… you don’t!!

5. Look for the store brand. Most stores that are know for being “healthy” or “fresh” have a store brand. For example, Whole Foods has 365, Trader Joe’s has a store brand, Sprouts has a store brand, Kroger or Fry’s has Simple Truth. Look for store brands when buying packaged, bagged, or caned foods such as cereals, crackers, breads, pastas, dressings, etc. The store brand will usually save you at least $2 vs the other big name competitors.

6. Last but not least and probably my most important tip… eat something before you go shopping! If you don’t believe me on this one, test it out one time. Typically a hungry mind buys more and buys things that are unnecessary or uncommon to their usual grocery list. Don’t allow the tummy to shop for you!