Simple summer sides for the win

The summer months are slow and easy, especially in my new home in the South.  The days are long and hot, which zaps my energy and leaves me with little motivation to spend a ton of time in a hot kitchen, unless I have wine, of course!  Lately, I’ve been picking up whatever vegetables and fruits are freshest and making meals with just that.  I figure many of you may be doing the same or want ideas about how to make a meal quickly and easily.  This was my dinner tonight: Brussels sprouts with lemon and parsley, a summer veggie salad with basil, smoked salmon and half an avocado.  So simple and I prepared it all in under thirty minutes.

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I washed and thinly sliced the Brussels, roasted them in a 350 degree oven with olive oil, sea salt and pepper for about 15 minutes.  Then, I dressed them with a mixture of lemon zest and juice, olive oil, salt and pepper and a generous amount of fresh chopped parsley.  There’s never enough parsley!

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While the Brussels roasted, I sliced fresh cherry tomatoes, a medium raw zucchini, one yellow bell pepper, chickpeas and torn basil.  I drizzled olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper on top and let it marinate, then added raw pumpkin seeds for a little crunch.  It’s divine and took ten minutes, plus it is gorgeous!

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With my two all-star veggie sides, I felt I had a meal, but I added smoked salmon and avocado to jazz it up a bit then sat outside and enjoyed it while the sun went down.  Talk about summer perfection.  Bon appétit!

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Shopping in the middle

Going to the grocery store can be overwhelming. You’ve heard the tips from “the experts” who say to stay on the outside of the grocery store, not allowing yourself to be tempted by the middle aisles, which carry foods responsible for our expanding middles. I agree with those experts, but also spend hours at the store, and at home researching food products located in those middle aisles. These products are ones I trust and enjoy, both because of the way the food tastes and makes me feel, but also because I believe the brands are worthy.

First off is Theo Chocolate.  I look forward to indulging in it each day. Theo is the first organic chocolate to be made in the U.S. and as far as I can tell, it is one of the only brands of chocolate not made with soy lecithin, which is used mainly as an emulsifier but it is debatable whether this is an ingredient we should be consuming, so I try my best to avoid it.

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Theo’s products are all organic, non-GMO, Fair Trade certified and made in Seattle. It’s pricey, but worth it and whenever I see it on-sale, I stock up! My favorite is the Dark Salted Almond. Delicious, good for you (in moderation, of course), and available in a center aisle near you, I hope! I get mine at Whole Foods.

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Superfood cacao nut bars

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It has been a busy transition from Winter to Spring and now it feels like it’s nearly Summer.  Where does time go?  Since January, I started a new job, moved into a new apartment, have begun making wonderful new friends and have been eating at lots of new, great Southern restaurants.  I’m still staying true to my mostly healthy self and feel best when I eat a mainly plant-based diet with protein from non-animal sources.  These bars will fill you up, and possibly even satiate a sweet-tooth!  Never too busy for that.

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These superfood cacao nut bars are essentially nuts and seeds, bound together by the natural sweetness in raisins and dates and by the yumminess of raw cacao powder and coconut oil.  Perfection filled superfood!

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I recently treated myself — aka SPLURGED unnecessarily — on a lovely Cuisinart Food Processor.  I’m in love.  For these bars, a processor is prime to get the nuts, seeds, and dried fruit to the right consistency.  However, you could use a powerful blender or get back-to-basics with a sharp knife and cutting board!

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Burmese chicken & rice with green bean salad

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Even without traveling, food can teach us about different parts of the world. That’s something I love most about reading about food, and of course, eating food. My parents went to Burma last year (see photo above) and loved the scenery, the history, and the food. I didn’t get to go to Burma, but I got this cookbook, and love reading through the recipes, history and seeing the pictures of the people there and their food.

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My mom always raves about the long-bean salad with roasted peanuts recipe. What makes this dish is the fried shallots, and shallot oil that remains from the frying. I made a big batch and have since topped practically every salad with fried shallots. Salads will never be the same!

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The book, and Burmese cooking in general, calls for peanut oil quite often. I read in the book that the middle part of Burma, Mandalay and Bagan, provide ideal climates for growing peanuts. If you’re allergic to peanuts, you can substitute sesame oil. I will say, the shallots fry beautifully in the peanut oil!

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Banana Walnut Muffins

 

You know from past posts that I love muffins.  Breakfast is by far my favorite meal of the day, especially when muffins are involved.  This picture pretty much sums up my ideal breakfast: an egg, fried in coconut oil, topped with avocado and a muffin on the side.  Morning perfection, if I do say so myself!  How can you not win the day after a meal like this?  Oh, and coffee.

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How I prepare for the week ahead

A lot of my friends ask me what I do on weeknights when we are all too tired to cook a meal. There is also the issue of what to do with leftovers if you don’t want to eat the same thing day after day. While my method isn’t perfect, it works for me and I hope it gives you some ideas for what may work for you!

On Sundays I spend the morning reading the New York Times and browsing recipes, looking for something that strikes me as a good “base meal” for the week. I love quinoa, bean-based dishes, and vegetable dishes that last a while. I don’t eat a ton of meat so I usually look for a meat-free dish.

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This week, I picked this curried quinoa salad and reserved a portion of the quinoa to keep plain, in case I want to mix it up with different flavors one night this week. The curried quinoa is delicious! I added green peas instead of edamame and omitted the meat.

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I like to have fresh, steamed or roasted veggies that add a different element to some of my meals, or just something extra to serve on the side. This week, I picked organic sweet potatoes, roasted in a 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes. I drizzled the diced potatoes with olive oil and sea salt before roasting.

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Reese’s Redux

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Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are a sort of heaven for me.  The decadent candies have long been my favorite mix-in for ice cream; the Cheesecake Factory’s Reese’s Cheesecake always stole my heart. But, the truth is, Reese’s are highly processed and full of ingredients I’d rather not put in my body. The extremely good news is that we can make our own, even better!

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These are Almond Butter Balls. They are gluten free, dairy free and absolutely yummy, without the post-consumption guilt. The recipe is inspired by Oh She Glows’ “Peanut Better Balls.” I used almond butter, which is much healthier and just as satisfying.

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Teapot Butter Cookies with Perfect Icing

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Christmastime is my favorite time. I share mostly healthy recipes with you, but this is not one of them. These are a holiday staple in my house and my mom has been making Teapot Butter Cookies as long as I can remember.

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The recipe for these cookies is on an old 3×5 index card. It’s just flour, sugar, vanilla, butter and an egg. If you plan to double the recipe, make each batch separately.

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The dough for these cookies can be made in one bowl, which makes for easy clean up! Hallelujah!

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