2 Salad Recipes to Spring into Cookout Season

Outdoor entertaining is finally in full-bloom, so make your backyard the place. to. be. with my springtime spins on classic salad favorites.

First on the menu line-up, Asian Chicken Salad gets healthified by replacing those addictively fried wonton noodles with crisp and colorful matchstick veggies. Next, traditional Nicoise Salad gets revamped by swapping out anchovies and tomatoes for salmon and strawberries.

The final outcome? A “dynamic duo” of dishes that you’ll want to keep in your recipe repertoire all season long!

Note: To my vegetarian peeps, although both recipes are meat-centic, you can easily eliminate these components and turn the salads into side dishes instead of main courses.

springtime salad sensations

image courtesy of Nocoveglia via Flickr Creative Commons‚ÄĒaltered with permission.

Asian Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

1 Chicken Breast (free-range)

2 Baby Bell Peppers (julienne sliced)

1/4 Red Cabbage Head (julienne sliced)

1 Carrot (peeled & chopped)

1/2 cup Edamame (steamed)

1/4 cup Raw Almonds (chopped)

2 tbsp. Soy Sauce (low-sodium)

1 tbsp. Sesame (or Olive) Oil

2 tsp. Rice Wine (or Cider) Vinegar

1 clove Garlic (minced)

1 tsp. Ginger (ground)

1 Lemon (juiced)

Preparation:

  1. Whisk together the Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, Rice Wine Vinegar, Garlic and Ginger in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Place the Chicken into this mixture and set aside to marinate for about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Prep the Vegetables and Almonds according to the ingredient specifications, then transfer into a serving bowl and toss to combine.
  4. Preheat a skillet on the medium-high stovetop setting, then add the Chicken and marinade mixture.
  5. Sauté the Chicken for about 5 minutes on each side, or until cooked thoroughly, then remove from the skillet and cut into strips.
  6. Combine these Chicken strips with the other ingredients and drizzle the Lemon juice on top like a dressing.

Asian Chicken Salad


Salmon Nicoise Salad

Ingredients:

1 Salmon Filet (wild-caught)

2 cups Spinach (whole leaves)

1 cup Strawberries (sliced)

1/2 cup Gorgonzola (crumbled)*

1/4 cup Raw Walnuts (chopped)

2 tbsp. Balsamic (or Red Wine) Vinegar

1 tbsp. Olive Oil (extra-virgin)

1/4 tsp. Himalayan (or Sea) Salt

2 Thyme Sprigs (chopped)

1 Lemon (juiced)

*Make this recipe vegan by omitting the Gorgonzola or using these substitutes. 

Preparation:

  1. Whisk together the Balsamic Vinegar, Olive Oil and Himalayan Salt in a small mixing bowl.
  2. Place the Salmon into this mixture and set aside to marinate for about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Spread the Spinach on the bottom of a serving bowl, then prep the Strawberries, and Walnuts according to the ingredient specifications.
  4. Transfer these ingredients into the serving bowl, then add the Gorgonzola and toss to combine.
  5. Preheat a skillet on the medium-high stovetop setting, then add the Salmon and marinade mixture.
  6. Sauté the Salmon for about 3-5 minutes on each side, or until cooked thoroughly, then remove from the skillet and peel off its skin.
  7. Lay this Salmon filet over the other ingredients, then add the Thyme and drizzle the Lemon juice on top like a dressing.

Salmon Strawberry Salad

Got any seasonal salad creations of your own to share? Awesome…then, let’s get a recipe swap going in the comment section!

Let the Side Dish Take Center Stage this Holiday Season

Yeah, sure…Thanksgiving was a week ago. But that’s no reason to take¬†the seasonal eats out of rotation. Not yet, anyway.

And definitely not before you’ve tried my Cranberry, Orange & Pecan Chutney. This recipe is vegan, refined sugar-free and contains natural ingredients. With a tart and tangy flavor, full-bodied texture and festive color combo, this crowd-pleasing side dish will make your holiday celebrations both merry and bright.

Plus, cranberries are extremely nutrient-dense¬†(we’re talking antioxidants, fiber and Vitamin C!). So…there’s that.

Cranberry Relish recipe

Ingredients:

12-oz. Cranberries (fresh)

1 c. Orange Juice (freshly squeezed)

1/2 c. Raw Pecans (chopped)

2 tbsp. Orange Zest

1/2 tbsp. Liquid Stevia

1/4 tsp. Black Pepper

Preparation:

  1. Pre-heat a large stockpot on a high stovetop setting, pour in the Cranberries and Orange Juice, then bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and allow this mixture to simmer until the Cranberry skins start popping.
  3. Add the Liquid Stevia, then gently stir the mixture with a wooden spoon, while it continues to simmer.
  4. Remove the mixture from heat until it cools to room temperature.
  5. Strain the Cranberries in a colander and reserve the Orange Juice.
  6. Pulverize the Cranberries to a chunky consistency with a potato masher, then stir in the Orange Zest and Black Pepper.
  7. Pour the reserved Orange Juice into this mixture, stir to combine,       and refrigerate until cold.
  8. Sprinkle the chopped Pecans on top right before serving to add             a little extra crunch.

Cranberry Relish close-up

Cue. All. The. Drools.

On Turning Your Body Image from Naughty to Nice

The holidays are a challenging time of year for me.

I won’t even bother pretending otherwise.

So, with Christmas just 2 days around the corner, that telltale anxiety has begun creeping up on me.

In T-48 hours, the festivities will commence. I’ll be plied with cut-out cookies, green bean casserole (whose appearance at the buffet table always makes me wonder: why is this even a thing???), and every sugary beverage imaginable. I’ll spend Christmas dinner inwardly squirming because there’s no socially acceptable reason to escape “family time” for a stress-relieving workout.

And — most cringe-worthy of all — I’ll nod and *fake* smile as the table conversation invariably shifts to,¬†“I reeeeeeally shouldn’t eat this, but…”

Don’t give me wrong though, I still love the holidays.

No, seriously. I do.

I’m a sucker for seasonal traditions. I can flawlessly quote¬†Elf, and I know the lyrics to every musical sequence in¬†White Christmas¬†(that’s right…not just the title song!). I’m always convinced reindeer can fly upon watching the “Santa Tracker” with my younger cousins. In fact, I’m even listening to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” while typing this post.

Yep. There’s no denying it. Christmas is magical.

Too bad the magic often takes a backseat to my “holiday weight”-centric neurosis.

Negative body image seems grossly intensified during this time of year, and I sure wish Santa would fill my stocking with manuals on getting through the season, unscathed by those pesky insecurities. All gift-wrapped and foolproof because I am¬†on the Nice List, don’tcha know.

Right. If only.

Instead, I’m left to my own devices when faced with excessive eating, thoughtless comments, and degrading voices inside my head. And — if you’re anything like me — you’ve likely experienced the exact same struggle.

But, since we’ve established the Big Guy won’t be bringing any “Body Image Survival Guides” on his sleigh anytime soon, I’ll leave you with this:

3 strategies, which have empowered me to sidestep feelings of inadequacy, so I can actually enjoy the festivities. Maybe you’ll find them helpful, as well. Just sayin’…

  1. If you want a cookie, have a cookie!¬†Depriving yourself ¬†is counterproductive and will frequently lead to a binge. Instead of suppressing a sweet tooth or restricting your regular intake to compensate for said sweet tooth, only to lose control and devour the whole damn cookie jar when nobody’s looking, allow yourself some wiggle room. Don’t overindulge, but listen to those internal hunger cues. If your body is craving chocolate chip goodness, for instance, feed the urge. ¬†Eat 1 cookie. Taste it. Savor it. Then, walk away from the remaining dozen. Sweet tooth satisfied. Anxiety alleviated.
  2. Enough already with “good” vs. “bad” foods!¬†There are no bad foods (unless they’re loaded with artificial preservatives…then, they can’t really be considered food). Only bad eating habits. Example: I might avoid green bean casserole, but my sister loves that shit. Therefore, green bean casserole is neither “good” nor “bad.” Regardless of our individual taste buds, it’s still just food. How food is consumed, though, can be detrimental. Whether you’re obsessively counting calories or mindlessly munching until nausea ensues, you fall into the disordered eating category. ¬†So, eliminate those labels. If you like something, just eat it.
  3. You can be social while staying in shape!¬†Rather than sneaking away from the crowd to sweat off Christmas dinner, turn exercise into a family bonding activity. Take a brisk walk around the neighborhood together, while enjoying holiday lights. Organize a backyard touch football scrimmage. Even play Wii Sports with your cousins (that’s what I do!). By all means, get moving! Just don’t let fitness take precedence over relationships. Strike a healthy balance. Instead of turning your desire for physical exertion into a covert mission, invite others to join in the action.

Oh, and (because…randomness) here’s a picture of some cookies.

Christmas cookies¬†Yes, I baked them. I also —¬†gasp! — ate them.

Guiltlessly.

If I can, anyone can.

You’re welcome (and Merry Christmas!).

Hasta la Vista, Candy Corn. Make It a Healthy Halloween.

So, you just carved that jack-o-lantern, huh? You chiseled, sawed, and sliced away. You also gutted its innards, so now stringy orange slime has taken up residence on your kitchen floor.

Awesome.

Well, you could trash the goop. Or, you could extract the pumpkin seeds and turn them into something fabulous. I don’t know about you, but Option #2 has my personal vote!

Many of us already associate roasting¬†pumpkin seeds as a tasty fall tradition. But, were you aware that these festive little munchies are also nutritional powerhouses? Uh huh. They’re regular superfoods. According to an article posted on the alternative medicine website,¬†Mercola.com, here are some¬†health benefits of our pal, Mr. Pumpkin Seed:

  • Magnesium¬†for cardiovascular circulation, DNA/RNA synthesis, and skeletal strength
  • Zinc¬†for immune system support, cell growth/division, insulin regulation, and enhanced¬†senses
  • Omea-3s¬†for anti-inflammation, blood oxygenation, and defense against cognitive aging.
  • Tryptophan¬†for melatonin/seratonin production, resulting in a restful sleep cycle
  • Fiber¬†for bowel normalization, decreased cholesterol, and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Antioxidants¬†for protection¬†against free radicals and harmful UVA skin exposure

There. That’s all the persuasion you need. Now, go roast those seeds for a savory afternoon pick-me-up that you can feel great about!

(And, just in case you need pointers on pre-cleaning the seeds before cooking them, I¬†borrowed this simple strategy from SimplyRecipes.com: After scooping¬†out the pumpkin’s flesh, transfer a large handful of seeds into a colander and run them under a strong stream of water until they have been separated from the flesh).

  • Ingredients:
  1. 1 tbsp. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  2. 1/4 tsp. Sea Salt
  3. 1 tsp. Chili Powder
  4. 1 tsp. Smoked Paprika
  5. 1 c. Pumpkin Seeds (pulp removed)

roasted pumpkin seed ingredients

  • Preparation:
  1. In a small skillet, pre-heat the olive oil on a medium stove-top setting.
  2. Add the pumpkin seeds into the pan and season them with sea salt.
  3. Reduce the heat to low, then saute the seeds for 3-5 minutes, while stirring.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
  5. Transfer the seeds onto the baking sheet and spread them around evenly.
  6. Sprinkle the seeds with chili powder and smoked paprika, to taste.
  7. Place the baking sheet in the oven and allow to roast for 5-10 minutes.
  8. Once these seeds have turned golden brown, remove them from the oven.
  9. Let them cool before eating, then nibble¬†to your heart’s content on this healthy seasonal snack!

roasted pumpkin seed saute

roasted pumpkin seed pre-bake

roasted pumpkin seed cooled

Fall Has Fallen Into My Kitchen…

This past weekend, I visited a farmer’s market in the historic downtown section of my Southwest Florida stomping grounds. Even though autumn in my neck of the woods doesn’t necessarily mean colorful leaves and blustery wind gusts, we beach babes still get into the seasonal spirit.

So, – like I was saying before I went off on a “Floridians love this time of year too” tangent – I went to a farmer’s market. And I came home with an butternut squash, a bag full of apples, and other freshly-picked, locally-sourced fall-ish produce.

Then, I set to work putting these farmer’s market finds to use. And if you’re gonna whip up some autumnal comfort food, you might as well do it right. You might as well make soup.

Butternut squash soup. Butternut squash soup with apples. Sprinkled with aromatic spices on top. Warm, hearty, soothing. Ahhhhhh!

So, yeah. From my “fall friendly” kitchen to yours…here’s the recipe:


  • Ingredients:
  1. 4 cups vegetable or chicken stock (low sodium)
  2. 1 butternut squash (peeled and cubed)
  3. 1/2 red onion (chopped)
  4. 1 apple (peeled and chopped)
  5. /2 tbsp. ground nutmeg
  6. 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  7. 1/4 tsp. sea salt

butternut squash soup ingredients

  • Preparation:¬†
  1. Combine the butternut squash, apple and union cubes in a medium-size pot, then pour in the vegetable/chicken stock.
  2. Cover the pot and place it on a stove-top burner, then turn the heat up to high until the stock has reached a rolling boil.
  3. Uncover the pot and reduce the heat to low, then let this mixture simmer for approx. 10 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
  4. Remove the pot from heat and pour this mixture into a blender, then puree until the soup is thick and smooth.
  5. Pour the soup back into the pot and turn the heat on low, then simmer for a few extra minutes, while stirring constantly.
  6. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, then give the soup another quick stir. (Side note: I also found that tossing in 2-3 packets of organic Stevia added a lovely sweet and savory combination to this recipe.)

butternut squash soup before

butternut squash soup after

  • Serving Suggestion:

I prefer¬†my winter veggie soups on the slightly sweet side, so I mixed 1/4 cup plain coconut milk into the soup, which added some creaminess to the texture and perfectly complemented the squash’s already nutty flavor.

butternut squash soup with coconut milk

Hey, Y’all! It’s Time for Fall!

happy fallimage courtesy of onlysmallthings.com

On principle, I religiously avoid using the expression “Y’all” (because, make no mistake: Florida may, geographically, be considered the South, but Floridians are NOT Southern!).

However, today, I’m temporarily suspending my “Y’all” boycott for 3 reasons:

  1. Fall has officially fallen.
  2. “Y’all” rhymes with “fall.”
  3. I just really love fall.

In fact, I’ll probably be wishing people an exuberant “Happy fall, Y’all!” all day ’cause the calendar says we’ve finally arrived! Summer sweat is a thing of the past. Crisp air, crunchy leaves, cinnamon-scented candles, and pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING have taken its place.

And, in the spirit of welcoming this stupendous season, I’ve compiled a countdown of my Top 10 favorite autumn-isms. (Although, I could seriously go on for 10 pages!).

Got any of your own favorites, worth adding to the list…Y’all?!


10. UGG boots, infinity scarves, leggings, and over-sized sweaters become every girl’s signature wardrobe.

9. It’s acceptable to spend every spare minute crafting and baking (just keep it pumpkin though, capiche?).

8. Food Network is unanimously considered the TV channel of choice from right about now until January 1.

7. Yankee Candle Company breaks out with all their cinnamon spice, apple cider, and snickerdoodle scents.

6. The foliage changes from boring ‘ol green to vibrant red, fiery orange, buttery yellow, and rustic brown.

5. It won’t be long before the holidays are upon us (in fact, I call mid-October the start of Holiday Season).

4. There’s an invigorating chill outside that clears the senses, puts a pep in the step, and refreshes the soul.

3. Starbucks serves up seasonal favorites (PSL, anyone? Yep, went there!) and invites us to #SpreadTheCheer.

2. ¬†Black Friday becomes a festivity in itself, and the stores play “All I Want For Christmas Is You” on loop.

1. Everyone – and I do mean EVERYONE – hops on the pumpkin bandwagon, from desserts to coffee creamers.

(And, to that point: I may or may not be eating pumpkin oatmeal as we speak…)

pumpkin oatmeal

Jealous, much?

Move over, Pumpkin Pie. There are new Fall Favorites on the menu!

Now that school is back in session and September well underway, it’s time to give into that quintessential pumpkin craving we (try to!) suppress all year. Fall has almost fallen…let’s usher in this glorious season with some good ol’ comfort food.

And, on that note: the following recipes are figure-friendlier twists on classic autumn indulgences. So, you can satisfy your sweet tooth without souring your waistline!

Warm Mulled Cider

mulled cider ingredients   

  • Ingredients:
  1. 3 cups 100% apple juice (I used Simply Apple brand)
  2. 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  3. 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  4. 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  5. 1 tsp. orange zest
  • Preparation:
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring the stove-top heat to a boil.
  2. Stir this mixture constantly until it has reached a rolling boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium-high, then simmer for approximately 15 minutes.
  4. Stir the mixture occasionally throughout these 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the saucepan from heat and allow the cider to cool slightly.

mulled cider   

Pumpkin & Carrot Bars

  • Ingredients:

pumpkin bar ingredients   

  1. 3 egg whites
  2. 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  3. 1 tsp. baking powder
  4. 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  5. 1 cup whole wheat flour
  6. 3/4 cup organic Stevia powder
  7. 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  8. 1/3 cup carrots (shredded)
  9. 1 1/2 tbsp. applesauce (unsweetened)
  • For the Frosting:
  1. 1/4 cup fat-free cream cheese (softened)
  2. 2 tbsp. organic Stevia powder
  3. 1/2 tbsp. skim milk*

*If your dietary needs or preferences exclude dairy, you can substitute 1/2 tbsp. soy milk whisked with 1 tsp. apple cider.

  • Preparation:
  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the baking soda and powder, flour and pumpkin pie spice.
  2. In another bowl, combine the applesauce and sweetener, until the texture is smooth.
  3. Add the egg whites, carrots and pumpkin pie filling, then continue mixing.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, then mix again until everything is thoroughly blended.
  5. Spread the batter onto a greased jellyroll pan (a baking sheet will also suffice), then set aside temporarily.
  6. Combine the cream cheese, milk and remaining 2 tbsp. of sweetener.
  7. Spoon the frosting on top of the batter, then swirl them together with a butter knife.
  8. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the batter has cooked thoroughly.
  9. Allow the cake to cool completely, then slice it into even squares.

pumpkin bar before   pumpkin bar after