Tag Archives: vegetarian

Creamy Cauliflower Dip

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One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from changing my diet is when you close a door on one food, there’s a window that opens. And it’s a chance to experiment, be creative and discover something new. Four years ago I started on this journey of healing my body naturally and along the way have had to give up many of the foods I love. I can attest, eliminating foods you enjoy and rely on from your diet is hard. And it’s easy to get stuck staring at that closed door, focusing on what you can’t have. But, I’ve learned if you can break away, there’s a whole world of foods out there to play with, and you just might find something even more interesting and delicious to love.

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Caul Me What You Want
At first glance, cauliflower may seem to be a boring, bland vegetable – a less exciting version of broccoli, which is saying a lot… But if you stop at first glance, let me tell you, you’re missing out! Cauliflower is one of the most versatile vegetables you can stock in your fridge. It can become rice, mash, crust, soup, a dip… It can be transformed in so many ways, if you didn’t know any better, you might not realize you’re eating those boring little white trees…

Cauliflower, and really all cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc.), help our bodies detox. There are specific phytonutrients in crucifers that activate enzymes which work to get rid of harmful toxins. That’s why cruciferous vegetables are so often hailed as cancer fighters.

One more thing… cauliflower in particular is a solid source of of choline, a B vitamin known for its role in… can you guess? I’ll give you a hint… it’s in the head (see what I did there?). Brain health! We call it a “head,” it sorta looks like a “brain”… Gotta hand it to Mother Nature, she sure knows how to keep it interesting.

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Cauliflower “Hummus” Dip

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower, cut in florets
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1-2 tsp cumin
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2-1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & black pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss cauliflower florets with coconut oil and cumin. Spread on baking sheet and roast 30-40 minutes, until browned. Remove from oven and cool.

In food processor or blender, combine cauliflower, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper in food processor. Process until smooth. Add water if needed to get to desired consistency. Add more to thin.

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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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Seeduction Muffins

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I used to be obsessed (I mean, obsessed) with this bread at Whole Foods called Seeduction bread. It’s the heartiest, nuttiest (or seediest) bread I think I’ve ever had and it’s so so tasty. If you’re not avoiding gluten or grains, I highly recommend it on pure taste alone. You know those breads that are light and fluffy and are actually more air than bread? This is not one of those breads. You know what I mean, right? Have you ever taken a piece of regular white or wheat bread and tried rolling it up into a tiny little ball? If you haven’t done this before with conventional bread, try it. Do it with your kids, it’s tons of fun. You see, most conventional breads on the shelves don’t have much to them and are actually more air and sugar than whole grain. To make sure you’re getting something of substance when shopping the bread aisle, look for the words 100% whole grain; the first ingredient listed should be whole grain, not whole wheat. Whole wheat is tricky. That phrase could still mean that the grain has been processed to separate the bran from the starch. With 100% whole grain, you can be sure you’re getting the nutrition of the whole grain and not just the starch – which to your body is pretty much just sugar.

It’s been about three years since I’ve had a real piece of bread. People ask me, do I miss it? And, you know, I really don’t most of the time. It’s funny how you adjust and adapt to a new way of eating and before you know it it’s just the new norm. But one day I saw that seeduction bread and I had to have it. So I decided to try making my own gluten-free, grain-free version… I got inspiration from one of my favorite blogs – My New Roots. Sarah B. has what she calls her Life Changing Loaf of Bread which gave me inspiration for my own seeduction bread – or muffins. And they’re every bit as hearty and delicious as the one Whole Foods makes.

More Fiber, Please
Without flour, grains or gluten, you may be wondering what’s holding all those seeds together here? It’s a little trick with one super ingredient: psyllium seed husk. Psyllium seed husk comes from a plant and is extremely high in soluble fiber. You may have seen or used it yourself mixed with water as a supplement to, you know, get things moving. Psyllium seed husk’s fibrous qualities happen to make it a good substitute in gluten-free baked goods as well because it works to bind ingredients together.

Like other foods high in soluble fiber, psyllium seed husk is thought to be effective in lowering cholesterol and controlling certain types of diabetes. Look for whole psyllium seed husk or psyllium seed husk powder. A little bit goes a long way, you’ll notice in this recipe it only uses 2 tablespoons.

To get the full benefit of adding the extra fiber from psyllium to your diet, be sure to drink plenty of water too.

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Seeduction
These muffins have five different seeds in them, all with their own health benefits. There’s a healthy mix of Omega-6s and Omega-3s, two essential fatty acids we must get from food while making a conscious effort to maintain the right balance of the two. Most seeds and nuts are higher in Omega-6 which promotes inflammation in the body. When our ratio of Omega-6 far outweighs the amount of Omega-3s we’re getting in our diets – which is usually the case – we end up with way too much inflammation that can end up as the basis for ailments and disease. The key is to make sure you’re getting plenty of Omega-3 fats as well from plant-based foods like flax and chia seeds, walnuts and greens, as well as animal sources like wild salmon and other seafood. Staying away from processed foods and foods prepared with refined seed oils like sunflower, safflower and canola also helps keep your Omega-6 count in check.

I am sort of obsessed with pumpkin seeds. I love adding them to salads or just snacking on them all by themselves. For salads and snacks, I love Go Raw’s sprouted pumpkin seeds. Sprouted seeds and nuts are easier to digest because the sprouting process neutralizes inhibitors and releases enzymes that are dormant when raw. Once a seed is sprouted, it becomes alive all the nutrition packed into that tiny little seed gets activated. Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of manganese, magnesium, zinc and iron.

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Just the Flax
We know flax seeds are one of the best plant based sources of Omega-3 fat but that’s not the only reason to add these golden flecks to your baked goods and smoothies. Flax seeds are high in antioxidants and have been associated with the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and decreased insulin resistance. Flax seeds are also a the No. 1 source of lignans which are another type of antioxidant and phytoestrogen. Sesame seeds and sunflower seeds are high in lignans as well.

Flax seeds should always be ground first before consumed so that they can be more easily digested and absorbed. Because of the delicate nature of the oils in flax seeds, ground flax has a much shorter shelf life. So, as a general rule it’s always better to purchase whole flax and grind it yourself. You can store both in the fridge or freezer for a longer shelf life.

I usually grind mine with my Magic Bullet, but a regular ol’ coffee grinder or food processor will work too. In fact for this recipe I pulsed all of the seeds individually in the Magic Bullet and then added them to the mixing bowl one by one. In this recipe, you pulse each just enough to get a coarse chop, but not pulverize completely. The result is a hearty seed mix that’s still crunchy.

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Seeduction Muffins

Ingredients

2 tbsp psyllium husk powder
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
2 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp virgin coconut oil, melted
dash of stevia

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a small bowl, combine psyllium husk powder and water and stir. Set aside – after about 5 minutes it will for a thick gel. Meanwhile, place all seeds in a food processor and pulse a few times to coarsely chop. Transfer seeds to a large bowl and add salt, stevia and coconut oil. Stir to combine evenly.

By now the psyllium husk and water should be thick. Add the melted coconut oil to mixture and stir. Pour the liquid into your seed mixture and mix it up well. Cover and set aside for an hour – this allows the seeds time to absorb some of the liquid and the dough will become firmer. (Note: This step does make for a better end product, but you can skip it if you are pressed for time.)

Grease your muffin pan with coconut oil and then spoon the dough into the pan, filling each muffin slot to the top. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour.

Recipe yields 24 mini muffins or 12 regular muffins.

The Megg Salad Store

You may have noticed a few of the food items listed above are linked. These links take you to the new Megg Salad Store on Amazon.com. I’ve pulled together many of my favorite ingredients, food products, books and tools and organized them in a convenient little online store for you. I get asked all the time for product and brand recommendations so I decided to create a place where you can easily find the items I recommend and use in my own kitchen. Full disclosure: As an affiliate of Amazon I receive a small percentage of any sale made from my website.

The store will be available on meggsalad.com shortly… just as soon as I can figure out how to add it. Any WordPress whizzes out there? 🙂

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The Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie

anti-inflammatory smoothie

Last week I mentioned how I use food as medicine to help relieve pain and heal. When you approach food from this perspective, food is more than just calories or something to silence a growling tummy. It is information that tells our cells what to do and how to react. Imagine your body is like a computer and everything you put into it is a command on the keyboard. With the right combination of key strokes the computer will perform a given function. In a similar way our bodies’ output directly depends on the input.

Just like any other chemical substance you might put into your body – pharmaceuticals, over the counter drugs, other drugs, alcohol, etc. – the foods we eat create a chemical reaction just the same. And believe it or not, certain foods can have an effect that is just as strong, if not stronger, than one you can get from a bottle.

Take turmeric for example. I talk a lot about this root here because it has incredible healing properties. And several studies have shown it to be as effective as Ibuprofen at relieving pain. So I add it to a variety of foods and dishes when I cook to give myself a regular does of its healing benefits.

Super Power Spices 
Turmeric, along with ginger and cinnamon in this smoothie help to reduce inflammation and the pain associated with it. Here are a few more specific benefits of each:

Turmeric: One of the most powerful medicinal herbs that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic (ancient Indian) medicine to treat a variety of ailments including arthritis, bruises and wounds. It also aids protein digestion, decongests the liver, acts as an antioxidant and can reduce menstrual pain.

Ginger: In addition to it’s anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, ginger is used to ease an upset stomach, reduce nausea, improve digestion, clear congestion and warm up the body.

Cinnamon: Cinnamon can reduce inflammation, have antioxidant effects and fight bacteria. It’s been shown to help regulate blood sugar, reduce LDL cholesterol, and help with hormonal balance that can improve fertility. It’s also high in calcium, iron and manganese.

pre-blend smoothie

Oh-Mega Dose
Another way to bring down inflammation is to make sure you’re getting plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids daily. Omega-3s reduce inflammation and work to balance the abundance of the pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids we tend to get so much more of in our diet. When the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 gets out of proportion and skews to the pro-inflammatory side, it lays the ground work for all sorts of problems from allergies to aches and pains to the more serious stuff. The key is to get plenty of Omega-3s from food and even supplements to maintain a proper balance. The hemp and flaxseed in this smoothie are two of the best plant-based sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. You can also get Omega-3s from salmon, walnuts and dark leafy greens.

So there you have it, five (count ’em – five!) superfood inflammation fighters crammed into one glass. That’s a mega dose of anti-inflammatories to help kick your pain to the curb and boost your immunity.

The Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
2 tbsp vanilla hemp protein powder
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
dash black pepper*
1/2 banana (preferably frozen)
handful ice cubes

Directions

In a blender combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.

 *black pepper is added to enhance the potency of turmeric and help it get into the bloodstream. A dash a black pepper enhances the benefits of turmeric 2,000 times. 

You Can Feel Better with Food
If the idea of using food as medicine intrigues you or if you’re curious about how you can start using food to feel better, I’d love to help.

Last week I introduced my new program, No Pain, Everything to Gain: 90 Days to the Real You. This program is about making shifts so you naturally crave and want to eat good-for-you foods. We’ll work together to identify problem foods and replace those with ones that make it easy to make the necessary changes for you to feel your absolute best. We’ll look at the complete picture to help you manage all the areas of your life that can affect your well being including stress, physical activity and emotional health to give you a sturdy foundation for long-term health and healing.

I’m offering five free 30 minute strategy sessions this week. If you’re interested in learning more about how small changes can make a big difference when it comes to dealing with chronic pain, email me at megan@meganadamsbrown.com.

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Creamy Cauliflower and Leek Soup

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I know this isn’t your typical Hello, Spring! recipe for the first week of the new season… but spring sure is taking it’s sweet time to get here…. at least in Texas that is. The weather here lately has been down right erratic. 80 degrees one day. 30 degrees the next. And rainy. My god, so much rain. It has literally rained every weekend since we got to Austin. Five weekends of rain, people… in a city that’s supposedly in a drought. Some say we brought it with us. So to that I say, you’re welcome.

So what better to go with our rainy damp days here than a bowl of creamy delicious soup that just so happens to be dairy-free too. When cooked throughly and blended, cauliflower takes on a creamy, smooth consistency. It’s great to use for a non-dairy cream-based soup or even a mash, as a substitute for mashed potatoes.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli, kale, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, etc. and like its cousins is full of antioxidants and nutrients like vitamin C, K, folate and manganese. It’s the leeks in this soup that make it say, “Hello, Spring!” A leek is a spring onion, which like the rest of its allium family (and crucifers too) is rich in sulfur – one of the most abundant minerals in the body and it’s required for hundreds of processes that keep us alive and kicking. Leeks are also one of nature’s antibiotics with strong anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. Eating alliums (onions and garlic) regularly can help to ward of infection and keep your immune system strong.

When preparing leeks, it’s the white part that you want to cook with. Cut off the green stems and remove the outer leaves. Cut off the end of the root and then slice again in half longways. Open up the leeks a bit to expose the inside pieces and rinse well under water. Cut again longways and then slice thinly. The thinner the strips, the faster they’ll cook.

Creamy Cauliflower and Leek Soup

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 leeks, chopped (just the white part)
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets and chopped
6 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
salt
pepper

Directions

Place pot over medium heat and add olive oil. Saute the garlic and leeks about 3 minutes, until soft. Add cauliflower and saute for another minute. Add broth, then increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce back to medium and simmer, covered for about 20-30 minutes, until the cauliflower can be pierced easily with a fork.

Blend soup either using a blender or immersion blender until smooth and creamy, with no lumps. Return to pot and warm over low heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve garnished with chopped fresh parsley or chives.

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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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Zucchini Hummus

Wondering what to do with that giant zucchini growing in your new garden? Well, have I got something for you…

Photo courtesy of Slashfood

Photo courtesy of Slashfood

How about a dip?

Let’s first redefine the phrase “veggie dip.” What once described a dip you dipped veggies in is now the dip itself. Or I guess we could call it a veggie veggie dip. Or veggies with veggies. Or veggies2. OK, I’ll stop now. Sorry, I just get really excited when I’m able to eat/serve this many veggies without anyone even realizing it. So sneaky.

Zucchini is standing in for chickpeas here. All of the other traditional hummus ingredients are the same; we’re just subbing in a vegetable for a bean. The zucchini makes for a much lighter dip too – nice and cooling for summer. And since zucchini has a lot of water in it already, it doesn’t need nearly as much liquid or oil to get that smooth, creamy consistency.

ingredients in food processor

blended hummus

carrots

zucchini hummus dip

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong in my book with your standard homemade chickpea hummus. But if you want to change it up, sneak some more vegetables into your routine, or tackle that monster zucchini that’s growing zucchini of its own in your backyard, here’s something for you to try…

Zucchini Hummus

Ingredients:

2 zucchinis, chopped (or one really big one)
1 clove garlic
½ cup tahini
1 lemon, squeezed
½ tsp salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

In a food processor, first pulse garlic to mince. Add zucchini, tahini, lemon juice and start to process. While the mixture blends in the processor, stream in olive oil through hole in the top, then add salt. Process until completely smooth. Taste for yourself and feel free to adjust to your liking with extra oil, salt or tahini.

Transfer to a bowl and dip to your hearts content with carrots, celery, cucumber, snap peas… or heck, even zucchini!

If you want to change it up, you can also add spices like cumin or paprika. Or to put a different spin on it, add roasted red peppers, fresh basil or Kalamata olives.

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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.

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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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Dinner for One: Sweet Potato with Kale and Avocado

sweet-potato-kale-avocado

This is one of my favorite simple meals that I tend to make when I’m just cooking for myself. It’s super low maintenance (read: one pan) but has tons of flavor and is totally satisfying. It’s just simple ingredients that are easy to cook and happen to combine quite well together. By adding extras like garlic and lemon too, simple vegetables turn into the world’s simplest gourmet tasting meal for one. Did I mention how simple it is?

On a night when it’s just me, I can throw this together in about 30 minutes and be on the couch with dinner in one hand and the remote in the other, ready to relax and catch up on the girly portion of our DVR.

Sweet Potato with Kale and Avocado

Ingredients:

1 sweet potato
1/2 bunch kale, torn from stems and roughly chopped
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or virgin coconut oil
1/2 avocado, sliced
salt
lemon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, wrap sweet potato in foil and bake 30-45 minutes, until soft.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute 5-7 minutes, until translucent and beginning to brown. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes more. Add kale and stir to coat with oil. Cook about five minutes until greens begin to wilt and shrink.

When sweet potato is done, unwrap and cut it in half. Mash the potato with a fork and then top with greens mixture. Add sliced avocado, sprinkle with salt and give it a little squeeze of lemon.

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St. Patrick’s Day Spinach Pesto Pasta

I watched maybe four episodes of “Chopped” last night. It may have been a bit much… because when I just went to the kitchen to make dinner, I created my own little mystery basket. Except instead of exotic or ridiculous ingredients, mine were things in the fridge that are about to go bad… I had to get rid of some spinach. And the broccoli was looking a little peaked. (Please don’t tell the judges.) So there was that… From the pantry I scrounged some staples: pasta, garlic, onion. Done! I’m going to make a spinach pesto with sauteed broccoli and penne. Boom! And that’s how it went. Pretty lame for “Chopped,” I know, but the approach sure beat opening the door to a near empty fridge, sighing and saying, “We have no food!” Which is how I probably would have reacted just a few years ago…

Instead, I accepted the challenge and tried my damndest to impress my judge (the husband). And here’s the oh-so-appropriately-timed St. Patrick’s Day pesto pasta we ended up with for dinner:

broccoli-pesto-pasta

St. Patrick’s Day is a favorite holiday of mine. And when I looked down at all that green goodness on my plate I couldn’t help but smile at the timing. I would totally make this, or even just the pesto for a St. Patty’s Day party. Festive, and good for you! Skip the green beer and load up on this. (Note, I said green beer. I have no problem with beer… just for the record.)

Meanwhile, on my little episode of “Chopped”… The judges were speechless and practically licked their plates clean…

pesto-clean-plate

And there’s still plenty of pesto left over to use in dressings and to dip things in between now and the actual St. Patty’s day. This pesto (which is similar to this one) is a super sneaky way to get in more greens, which are good for you on every level – improving circulation, bringing in oxygen, detoxing cells and even lifting the spirit. They’ll also help counter act some of the not-so-good for you stuff (read: green beer) we may over do in honor of our patron saint in green….

spinach-pesto

St. Patrick’s Day Spinach Pesto Pasta

Ingredients:

For the pesto:
1 bunch spinach
1/2 cup walnuts
1 clove garlic
1 lemon
1 handful basil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

For the pasta
1 box whole wheat or brown rice pasta
1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:
Cook the pasta according to package instructions.

For the pesto, first put garlic clove in food processor and process to chop. Then add walnuts and chop. Add spinach, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and process into a smooth consistency. Last, add the basil and process until evenly blended and smooth. Add more olive oil and/or water until desired consistency is reached.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add diced onion and sautee until translucent. Add broccoli florets and sautee about 10 minutes until cooked through.

Top pasta with broccoli mix and then pesto.

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