Tag Archives: side dish

Zucchini Pasta with Avocado Pesto + The Veggie Spiralizer

zpaghetti plate

It’s the first week of fall and while everyone else is blogging about pumpkin flavored soup, smoothies, muffins, cookies…. I’m stuck in summer mode. As excited as I am to move on to fall, I’m still savoring the last few tastes of summer, like the basil, zucchini and tomato in this dish. The light, refreshing flavors feel and taste right for now, at least until we break 80…

spiralizer

I recently got this new kitchen gadget – the veggie spiralizer. Now, this may surprise you, but I’m really not a big fan of kitchen gadgets. My cabinets tell a different story because I have plenty of them. But if I’m being honest, I really only use a few. I realized my minimalism in the kitchen when we stored the majority of our stuff for a year after moving to Austin. I only brought the essentials; the rest went to the Pod. And now, seven months later, I don’t think I could even tell you what’s in those 10 boxes. My dishes… I miss my dishes. The rest, I hate to admit, I could probably do without. I won’t… but I could…

This though, the veggie spiralizer, this is a keeper. Though, I do wish I had found this one first that you can hold in your hand. It takes up much less space and looks to make the same long pasta like ringlets out of all sorts of veggies from apples to zucchinis. This genius contraption is a godsend to anyone following a gluten-free or paleo diet. Pasta is just one of those things man can only go so long without. And with this guy, I really do not feel like I’m going without. Pasta fix is taken care of. I mean just look at those noodles! I call it zpaghetti.

zpaghetti

Zucchini happens to work particularly well as spaghetti. After spiraling, I use a paper towel to absorb some of the moisture. Then when you’re ready to cook, just toss the veggie noodles in a pan over medium heat with a little oil for a minute or two. The longer you let the noodles cook, the softer they’ll get. So for a more al dente pasta, cook for a minute or less. Sweet potatoes – great for pad thai and stir fries – beets, butternut squash, yellow squash and cucumber (great raw) make perfect noodles.

pesto ingredients

At the end of a season I tend to get a little nostalgic for its signature flavors and ingredients as we transition to what comes along with the next. Pesto is always a summer staple in our house. I love to make a big batch and then use it throughout the week as a sauce, dressing or spread. It’s also a super sneaky way to pack more greens into your diet. But, no need to say goodbye to pesto quite yet… it goes with pumpkin too. 🙂

cooking

Zucchini Pasta with Avocado Pesto

Ingredients

For the Pasta:
2 large zucchinis, spiraled
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

For the pesto:

1 avocado
2 cups basil
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup walnuts
1 lemon, juiced
sea salt

Directions

Spiralize zucchini into spaghetti noodles.

To make the pesto, combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Add water or extra-virgin olive oil if needed to help facilitate blending.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and allow to heat before adding zucchini noodles. Saute about a minute until slightly softened for more al dente-like noodles; allow to cook longer for softer noodles. Transfer to a serving bowl and mix with pesto and halved cherry tomatoes (optional). Add chunks of cooked chicken breast for a complete meal.

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The Trick to Making a Delicious Kale Salad

salad plate

How do you really feel about kale?

If you’re making a bitter face after reading that sentence, I understand. The No. 1 complaint I hear about kale is that it’s soooo bitter. And you’re right. Eaten completely raw the stuff is absolutely disgusting. There, I said it. But when kale is properly prepared, that bitterness mellows and can even (dare I say) turn slightly sweet, and that, my friends, is when kale becomes absolutely delicious!

If you take nothing else away from this post know this: Eating healthy does not mean force feeding yourself bitter green things. No one does that. Or at least no one does that for more than a day or two without coming back to reality. I’m here to tell you that there is so much more to kale beyond it’s bitter rap. The trick is just knowing how to prepare it.

Here’s a fun fact. Did you know chopping kale in a food processor sort of smells like freshly cut grass? It does… but if your salad tastes like your lawn there is a problem…

chop greens

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Bitter is Better
The darker the green, the more bitter the taste. But don’t let that scare you. Dark leafy greens are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, chlorophyll and oxygen. They help detoxify, purify the blood, oxygenate your cells and can even lift your spirit. All these benefits and yet dark leafy greens have so many of us stumped. Once you know how to prepare them though, they’re easy to add to any meal.

Banish the Bitter
Now that we’ve appreciated bitterness for what it means nutritiously, let’s talk about how to get rid of it. Kale is a hearty plant with a tough exterior so that it can endure the harsh winter months. To enjoy it raw, you have to get it to soften, because behind that tough exterior is just a sweet vegetable. It’s all in the approach. And it starts with lemon. The acid in lemon counters the bitter flavor and helps to break down the leaves. Combine lemon juice and olive oil in a 1:1 ratio and season with salt and pepper to make a simple dressing. Pour dressing over the chopped greens and (this is the real trick) get in there with your hands and massage the kale. You read right… massage – deep-tissue style – both hands. in there. working it. This breaks down the cellulose structure of the plant so that it wilts and softens. Pay attention as you massage and notice the leaves turn a more brilliant green and shrink up a bit. And just like that the kale is transformed from lawn clippings to a delicious salad…. Magic!

dressing

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add nuts and fruit

Massaged Kale Salad

Ingredients

1 bunch kale
1-2 lemons
1/8 cup EVOO
salt & pepper
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, almonds, walnuts, etc.)
1 cup dried fruit (currants, raisins, cranberries, etc.)

Directions

Wash kale well and tear leaves away from stem. Tear leaves into pieces and place in food processor or blender to chop. Pulse until  finely chopped (you’ll have to do this part in a few batches). Transfer to a large bowl.

Next, make the dressing. In a small bowl combine juice from lemons and EVOO. Season with salt and pepper and whisk well until combined. Pour over kale and massage the dressing into the greens using your hands.

Mix in choice of nuts, fruit or other salad toppings. If kale still tastes bitter, add more lemon and continue to massage until no longer bitter.

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Red, White & Blueberry Salad

red, white and blueberry salad

Happy Fouth of July, everyone! I just couldn’t let the holiday go by without contributing something red, white, blue and edible. Now, I realize there’s just no topping last year’s American flag tart (gluten-free and dairy-free), so I didn’t even try with the desserts. I decided to go in a completely different direction instead… salad. Before I go any further, let me explain my philosophy on salad. It’s simple: Lettuce alone does not a salad make. A salad should be packed with all sorts of different flavors, textures and colors. It should look exciting, fresh, beautiful… almost like art. The taste should of course match. And the process should be fun! No more boring old lettuce and dressing salads. Blah. OK, I’ve said my piece.

Back in the early days of this blog, I wrote a post about how to make a truly satisfying salad. If the idea of making something without a recipe totally freaks you out, I have lots of tips, tricks and how-tos for you here.

salad prep

So, this salad just so happens to be what’s for lunch today. You’ll have to pardon the bowl. If I was planning ahead I would have put it in something a little more photogenic than the plastic container I use to cart my lunch to work pretty much every day. Not the prettiest, but it sure is convenient, and even has a seperate contraption in the lid for dressing (Martha Stewart does it again!). I digress…

What makes this festive are the strawberries and blueberries of course. It just wouldn’t be the Fourth without those guys. And to get some white in there I’ve added radishes and hemp seeds. Not familiar with hemp? Here’s what it looks like in seed form…

hemp-hearts

Hemp seeds (also called hearts) are an excellent vegetarian source of protein. They’re easily digested and absorbed; high in important nutrients like iron, magnesium, essential fatty acids; and a fantastic source of fiber. Hemp seeds are a great pantry staple to keep on hand to turn any salad into a complete meal. Here they’re totally optional. If you want to make this salad to bring to a BBQ or 4th of July picnic, you can take em or leave em.

Also, you’ll notice the recipe below doesn’t say exactly how much of everything to use. Just go with amounts that seem right to you. You really can’t go wrong. I’ve never heard anyone complain of a salad having too much avocado or fruit.

Whatever your plans are for the 4th I hope yours is a fun and relaxing one, complete with good company and great foods. God Bless America. 🙂

salad

Red, White & Blueberry Salad

Ingredients:

mixed greens
red onion, thinly sliced
radish, thinly sliced
avocado, diced
strawberries, chopped
blueberries
basil, thinly sliced
hemp seeds (optional)
extra virgin olive oil
lemon
salt & pepper

Directions:

In a bowl combine greens, onion, radish, avocado, berries and hemp seeds. To make the dressing combine EVOO and lemon juice (2:1 ratio) and add a little salt and pepper. Drizzle over salad and toss.

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Chicken with Cauliflower Mash and Broccolini

chicken dinner

I just got home from seeing Dr. Mark Hyman speak at the Dallas Performing Arts Center. If you dont know Dr. Hyman, he is a rock star in the health and nutrition world, leading the way for functional medicine and changing the way we all think about health, disease and medicine. Check him out. One of his main takeaways for how to create health was quite simple – eat real food. Cooked by a human (you or someone near you). Sounds easy enough, right? But for many of us it’s a lot easier said than done. We’re short on time and often skills too. I don’t know about you, but I never had Home Ec. By the time I got to high school there were more important things to learn than cooking. But what could possibly be more important than the fuel we use to run our bodies and minds? It’s the foundation of our health and well-being. What we eat becomes our cells, our blood, tissues, organs, skin… We create health with what we put in our bodies. And it’s completely in our control. All we have to do is get to the grocery, get in the kitchen and get connected with our food.

Here’s a simple classic that’s fairly easy and worth the time in the kitchen – roasted chicken and vegetables. I know what you’re thinking. “Mashed potatoes?” Well, not exactly. That’s actually cauliflower right there. And mashed it tastes just as creamy and comforting as the spuds you’re used to. Plus it has a heck of a lot more nutrients and no peeling necessary – win-win. Healthy home-cooked comfort food. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Feeling like cooking = rocket science? I can help.

Roasted Chicken

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken
1/2 lemon, cut in small pieces
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, cut into chunks
Sea salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400
Stuff whole chicken with chopped onion, garlic and lemon
Sprinkle outside with salt and rub salt into skin to cover
Roast at 400 for about an hour until skin is browned and crispy

Cauliflower Mash

Ingredients:
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1/4 cup evoo
1/2 tsp sea salt
Squeeze of lemon

Directions:
Steam cauliflower until soft enough to pierce with fork. This took about 15 minutes. You can cover the pot to cook more quickly. Be careful to not immerse florets in water or you’ll end up with watery mash. Just trust me.
When soft, transfer florets to food processor, add evoo, salt, and process until smooth (really smooth).
Add squeeze of lemon and pulse.

Steamed Broccolini

Ingredients
1 bunch broccolini

Directions
Steam about five minutes until bright green and soft

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Simple Slaw Salad with Salmon

simple slaw with salmon

Meet my new favorite meal for spring. This plate has so much good stuff going on I’m not even sure where to begin. You’ve got your omega-3s in the salmon, and an extra anti-inflammatory boost from covering the fish in curry powder. Pair that with a slaw of raw veggies in all their glory, pure and unwilted delivering enzymes, nutrients and a delicious crunch. Oh, that crunch…

simple slaw

Raw foods can be so refreshing this time of year and adding them to your meals adds a whole list of health benefits including improved digestion. Foods that are raw come with enzymes which help to get the whole digestion thing started. That means your body doesn’t have to work as hard to break the food down all on its own. And you know what that means? More energy for you!

Healthnuttiness aside, what I love about this is you can make the slaw salad ahead of time (it’s actually even better the next day) and, if you plan it right, have dinner and lunch (or lunches) covered. Cook once, eat twice!

salmon

As for the salmon, it doesn’t get any easier than sprinkling on a little curry powder and sticking it under the broiler. I said this is my new favorite meal for spring for a reason… no cooking. no clean up. no reason not to be outside playing!

Simple Slaw Salad and Salmon

Ingredients

1/2 head of Napa cabbage, grated
6 carrots, grated
1 bunch basil, thinly sliced
3 limes, juiced
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 salmon filets
curry powder
salt and pepper

Directions

In a large bowl, combine cabbage, carrots, basil, then toss with lime juice and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To start the salmon, heat the broiler. Place filets on a foil-lined baking sheet skin side down and dust the tops of the fish with curry powder to just cover the filets and sprinke with salt and pepper. Broil salmon 6-8 minutes.

Serve slaw topped with salmon and enjoy!

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Spring Quinoa Salad and the Four-Hour Vacation

quinoa-picnic

I decided something a few weeks ago. “Nothing” deserves a much higher place on my priority list. Recently we were given a rare gift – an extra weekend day, with no set plans and nowhere to go. Sure, the ever growing to-do list was still there. But the hubs and I decided to set it aside, pack a picnic and a deck of cards, and head to the park to check out Dallas’ new social oasis in the city – Klyde Warren Park. Side note for Dallas residents: If you haven’t been yet, I highly recommend making an afternoon out of it. It will make you excited for Dallas. Just go, you’ll see…

We parked it for about four hours. We ate lunch, listened to music (they were setting up for a concert that night), people watched, took silly pictures, played cards and just veged. It was like a little four-hour vacation. And it was for no reason other than to spend some time together doing nothing. It was awesome.

picnic

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IMG_3191park-trip

I decided to make a spring resolution to take more four-hour vacations. I realize resolutions are typically made at the beginning of a year, but I’ve always found the change of seasons to be the best time for a shift in routine or perspective. It’s a time for cleansing, renewal and starting fresh.

Speaking of fresh… I’m excited to share this delicious spring quinoa salad I made for our picnic. This was the first really springy-tasting dish I’ve made this year. I love that transition when you first have those foods and flavors that tell your taste buds its time for a change. What are your favorite spring meals to make?

Spring Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Radish and Basil

Ingredients:

4 cups cooked quinoa
1/2 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 in. pieces
1/2 cup thinly sliced radish
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil
1/2 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
juice from 1 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions:

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus and sautee until tender. Add radish slices and corn and continue to cook 2-3 minutes until heated through. Stir in quinoa. Remove from heat, add basil.

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour over quinoa mixture and stir to mix evenly with dressing.

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Green Lentil Dahl

It may not be the prettiest of meals, but for a simple dinner on the quick, cheap and healthy, it’ll do just fine. This has become a go-to at our house when the fridge is bare and dinner comes down to pantry staples. It’s called dahl, an Indian lentil dish that’s strong in flavor and low in maintenance. Not the most pleasing to the eye, but what it lacks in presentation it makes up for in flavor. And did I mention it’s quick… and cheap?…

Super-Power Spice
It’s the spices that really make dahl, dahl. The lentils are cooked with tumeric — a spice that’s been used to treat everything from bug bites to congestion to menstrual cramps. The vibrant yellowy-orange powder is a staple in Indian cooking, though it was originally thrown in as a preservative to make curries last longer. Sure enough, the same way tumeric kept the curry from going bad, it works to protect the living tissues in our bodies. And looking at the health stats for people in India and Pakistan, there’s something to it. They have substantially lower rates of cancers, particularly colon cancer. Perhaps they’re on to something…

For centuries, tumeric has been used as a potent medicinal herb in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for its anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fill-in-the-blank properties. Let’s just say it has super powers. And what have we Americans traditionally use this cure-all for? To make stain-your-clothes yellow mustard. Huh.

Tumeric brings balance to the body as a warming and bitter herb. It helps with protein digestion and also works to decongest the liver and protect it from toxins. As an anti-inflammatory, some say it’s comparable to Hydrocortisone or Motrin. And if you want to up the ante, add a little black pepper. As if super powers weren’t enough on their own, the synergistic combo makes tumeric 2,000 times more potent. Whoa.

Lentil Love
Spices bring these bad boys to life, but on their own they’re worth talking about too. Lentils are one of the best vegetarian sources of protein and are a fabulous alternative to beans as they take half as much time to cook. They come in several varieties in different colors and sizes. They’re good for the heart and cardiovascular system and stimulate the adrenal system. Of course they’re also low in calories and fat, but filling. Adding spices – particularly cumin, coriander and ginger – help to make them easier to digest as well (you’re welcome).

Eat dahl in a bowl with brown rice (the combo makes a complete protein) or add some sauteed veggies to the mix. For something warming, hearty and spicy, look no further…

Green Lentil Dahl

Ingredients

1 cup lentils, uncooked
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 1/2 tsp cumin, whole seeds or ground
2 whole cloves
dash pepper, to taste

Directions

In a large pot, place the lentils and vegetable broth, and bring to a slow simmer. Add the turmeric, cayenne and salt, and cover. Allow to cook for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a large skillet or frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, cumin and clove and stir to combine. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes, until onion is soft. When the onion begins to brown, add to the lentils, and allow to simmer for at least 5 more minutes.

Add a dash of pepper and more salt, if desired, and serve on it’s own, or with rice, veggies or both.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Onion and Walnuts

I promised the other day that I’d be back with the recipe for those roasted Brussels sprouts that went on the side of my acorn squash. So here goes… First though, I feel we must address their reputation. Of all the vegetables out there, I can’t think of another that is as despised as Brussels sprouts. But these bite-sized crucifers have undergone a sort-of image refresh, if you will. They seem to be on every restaurant’s list of sides these days. Still, I can’t help but associate them with TV sitcoms and kids at the dinner table hiding their Brussels sprouts in napkins, plants, dog bowls, even their own cheeks until they could escape and spit them out. Brussels sprouts for dinner was pure torture in TV land. But perhaps June and the other TV moms were going about it all wrong…

There is a right and wrong way to prepare Brussels sprouts and other leafy greens. Boiling and steaming can cook and literally drain the life right out of them. With this method though, you just might turn a hater into a lover. Roasting Brussels sprouts brings out a sweetness in them, especially when combined with another complimentary sweet flavor, like the red onion here. And the walnuts add a little extra nuttiness and crunch, plus a healthy dose of omega-3s. Brussels sprouts alone are veggie superstars. A relative of broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower, all of these vegetables are known for being cancer fighters. And when they’re combined with onions, not only do you up the flavor, but you also up the ante. The two work together to detoxify, clean the system, and remove toxins from the body. Try getting more of the combo into your diet, and then if you really want to get crazy, throw in some mushrooms too.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Onion and Walnuts

What you need:

1 bunch Brussels sprouts, halved
1 small red onion, cut into crescents
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

What you do:

Preheat oven to 400. Combine Brussels sprouts, red onion, walnuts in a bowl and mix in olive oil until evenly distributed. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and spread mixture out on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast until slightly browned, about 20-25 minutes.

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Emerald City Salad

This recipe comes from one of my favorite IIN cookbooks  – Feeding the Whole Family. I love it because it’s full of simple basics like how to cook different grains, beans and simple blanched vegetables. And then it builds on the basics to create delicious, simple whole food meals. I’ve mentioned before that I love salads with lots of stuff in them. When I make a salad, lettuce is just one ingredient in a mix of lots. You gotta keep it interesting. And this Emerald City Salad certainly is. Kale by itself is… well, I’ll be honest, it’s not good. But when prepared correctly it can be absolutely delicious. I’ve never been much of a fan of it raw, but in this salad it works. The difference is in the combination of flavors and lemon to soften it. Plus it’s so colorful – really bright and vibrant. When it comes to food, the more colors the better! And all that color makes for one gorgeous side dish… and a great way to get in more greens.

Emerald City Salad

What you need:
2 1/2 cups water or vegetable or chicken stock
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp sea salt, divided
1 cup wild rice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove  garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped fennel bulb, core removed
1/2 red or yellow pepper, diced
1/2 cup chopped red cabbage
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 cups very finely chopped dark, leafy greens
salt and lemon to taste
Pecorino or Gorgonzola cheese, for garnish (optional)

What you do:
Bring water to a boil. Add butter, 1/2 tsp of the salt, and rice. Bring to a boil again, cover, lower heat, and simmer 60 to 65 minutes.

Combine lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and remaining 1/2 tsp of salt in a large serving bowl. Add fennel, red pepper, cabbage, parsley, and greens and toss thoroughly.

Once the rice is cooked, cool until it stops steaming but is still warm. Place it on top of the dressed vegetables. Allow rice to cool and then toss with vegetables. Adjust to taste, adding salt or lemon according to preference. Garnish with cheese if desired.

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Roasted Root Vegetables

Things like potatoes and butternut squash are the perfect solo dinner in a pinch. I keep a stash on the counter and pop one in the mic for a quick dinner at least once a week with a salad or some greens on the side. Prep/cook time is about 5 minutes. Can’t beat it. I went a little nuts at the store a few weeks ago and loaded up the cart with root vegetables. Maybe I had in the back of my mind that they’re nearing the end of their prime, or perhaps my intuition was spot on that it would snow on the first day of spring. And that I’d end up craving something starchy. I’ve been traveling a lot these days though and most nights I’m not even at home to use the mic. So those roots I bought were just taking up counter space. As of Tuesday I had three days to make them disappear before heading back to New York. So I decided to just roast them all. I had them for dinner on Tuesday, in a a salad on Wednesday and then an impromptu dinner of roasted potatoes combined with spinach, black beans and avocado. Not sure what you call that, but it was delicious.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Here’s what you need:

6 Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
1 large sweet potato, cubed
1 butternut squash, cubed
1 yellow onion, cut into crescents
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Combine root vegetables in a large bowl with the onion. Drizzle olive oil over the mixture and toss to coat vegetables with oil. Mix in a little salt and pepper. You can also sprinkle in some thyme or rosemary to add more flavor (optional).
  3. Spread vegetables out evenly on two baking sheet.
  4. Bake at 400° for 30-45 minutes, or until vegetables are browned.

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