Broccoli Beet Salad with Bacon

Broccoli, beets, bacon. Everything in this salad starts with a B.

Ok, that's a lie. But those three do. The others not so much.

I had hoped to make something entirely different tonight, but somehow my fridge wasn't as well-stocked as I remembered. It seems that over the week that carton of a dozen eggs mysteriously dwindled down to just one without my noticing. I'm relatively sure that it's the same people who are stealing just one of my socks every time I do laundry.

So after coming to terms with the barren state of my fridge and kissing any notions of eating delicious quinoa fritters tonight goodbye, I had to make a hard decision. One of the top first-world problems: What should I have for dinner?

This salad was the answer. I was literally scrapping the sides of my yogurt container with a spatula trying to get every last scrap out and vigorously shaking my bottle of vinegar to get at the last drops. My fridge now consists of the rest of the head of cabbage and condiments, which I'm temporarily banned from, because they all seem to have added sugar. Booo. Clearly a shopping trip is in order soon.

Stuffed Zucchini with Arugula Quinoa

Call me strange, but I’m not always in the mood for pasta. Unless it’s freshly made, I feel like it’s just a filler most of the time. Food that is meant to fill me up without actually adding much itself. A vehicle for the sauce! 

So last night when I made thick Bolognese sauce, I loaded it into hollowed out zucchini. Instead of pasta, though, I paired it with spicy arugula quinoa. It's heavier than a salad, but lighter than a portion of pasta. And the flavors melded so well… spicy arugula, salty feta and bright lemon juice. Yum!
Not to mention quinoa is kind of a superfood*:
  • Great source of protein: It is one of the few plant-based foods that contains all nine essential amino acides necessary for our body to make protein.
  • Rich in iron: Helps transport oxygen to cells in our body. This also helps improve brain function, because our brain requires around 20% of our body's oyxgen. (Read more here)
  • High in fiber: Improves digestion and helps you stay full.
  • Contains Vitamin B2: Improves energy metabolism in the brain and in muscle cells.

Another fun thing about this meal is you can adapt the sauce. Want a meat-free meal? Skip the ground beef and add squash or spinach. Want a richer, creamier dish? Add a scoop or two of mascarpone cheese.

*For nutrition data on quinoa click here.


Greek Salad with Zucchini Fritters & Sugar Detox Update

This is one of my faovite salads of all time. No.1 it is so incredibly fast to make. No.2 cleanup is a breeze. No.3, 4, and 5 it has artichoke hearts in it. I love them. I love them. I love them.

The dish is fresh and light, but surprisingly filling with the chickpeas giving you fiber and protein. You can have the salad as your main dish or serve it alongside grilled chicken or fish. Sometimes I just have it with some warmed pita bread, but if you really want a treat make some zucchini fritters to go along with it.

Sugar Detox Update:
I've just put my first full week free of coffee, alcohol and SUGAR behind me. It's been 8 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes... not that I'm counting or anything. WOOOoooOO!! I would like to say that breaking away has been oh-so easy with all the delicious meals and snacks I've made, but the truth is it just isn't. This is not because what I am eating is not  satisfying! It is! In fact, the food tastes great and I'm feel pretty great too. I have fewer ups and downs throughout the day. It’s just that…. you run into a number of other obstacles along the way:
1) Convenience. Popping bread in the toaster while getting ready in the morning is easy. I can't munch ona bowl of fruit, granola and yogurt while I walk out the door. I mean I could try… but something tells me I’d get some pretty strange looks.

The world of snacks present a whole new challenge. In between meals, I find myself wandering into the kitchen, opening the cupboards and peering to the fridge, looking for something to snack on and then wandering out again in dismay.

Bottomline: Eating clean means you really have to put some thought into where your calories are coming from. Whole foods don't come prepackaged in snack-sized fun packs. There are healthy alternatives, though: fruits, nuts, cottage cheese, vegetables, hummus, etc. But you have to make sure those things are on hand otherwise you are setting yourself up for hunger pangs, temptation and, ultimately, failure.

2) Social stigma, peer pressure and going against the grain.
What! You’re not eating bread OR pasta? So basically… you eat rabbit food now?
Why would you give up alcohol? That’s just no fun.
Are you trying to lose weight?
Come on, just join us tonight. We’re going out for wine.
I’m getting coffee, anyone want some?

One of the hardest things about doing this detox has been that most everyone around me is not. I say most, because I am lucky enough to have the support of a few strong-willed, healthful-minded coworkers and my boyfriend. But sugar, coffee and alcohol are ingrained in society in ways we don't often realize. It's someone's birthday and you don't eat the cake that was made. Coworkers want to go out for lunch, but nothing on the menu fits your diet. Your friends want to meet up at a wine bar for drinks after work. Pretty soon you are getting funny looks and people want to know why you aren’t partaking in the FUN! This opens up the door for dialogue or, in same cases, critique, indifference, disbelief, interest or just some good old-fashioned teasing. And you have to be prepared.

3) Old habits die hard. After lunch, I find myself craving something sweet to get that taste of whatever I just ate out of my mouth. When 3 p.m. rolls around, I’m longing for a cup of coffee to lift me out of my midday slump. When I’m watching a movie, I have this strong desire to mindlessly snack on junk food. Saturday morning, I missed slowly sipping coffee in my chair by the window.

Fighting these habits is hard! After meals I find that brushing my teeth or chewing gum puts an end to my desire to eat square after square of Rittersport chocolate. To break up the monotony of my day and wake my brain up, I walk around the office, get a breath of fresh air or make a cup of tea. And so I can still mindlessly snack during movies, I’ve replaced my bag of bugles with lightly salted popcorn. It’s all doable. But first you have to recognize when these urges hit and why. Then you can figure out how to counter them.


Arugula Salad with Handkäse

Handkäse. You either love it, hate it or have never heard of it.

More than likely, it’s the latter. That's because – as it’s name might suggest – it is a German culinary delight. It is a sour milk cheese with a pungent aroma that is a specialty in the German state of Hessen. To make matters worse (or better?), it is typically served in a vinegar-oil dressing and raw diced onions.

Like I said, love or hate. I happen to LOVE it. Generally, you eat it with thick slices of bread and butter, but tonight I wanted to lighten the dish up. So, an arugula salad was in order.

Berry Beet Juice

Beets for breakfast?

Alright, admittedly, it sounds suspicious, but it’s actually delightful. So much so that by the time I thought to take a picture, my cup was more than half empty.
Ever since I realized the nutritional benefits of beets, I’ve been trying to sneak them into my diet . I say sneak, because for the time being I am inexplicably mildly repulsed by their texture. (more on nutrition below recipe)
For those of you who share this sentiment or just are interested in incorporating beets into your diet, juicing is one way to go. If you happen find yourself without a juicer, (like me) don’t worry, I got you!


Chicken Enchilada Soup

If you like Mexican food, just go ahead and make this. I can definitively say that your future self will thank you. It's hearty, healthy and so, so full of flavor.

I tried to fight it, making this recipe that is. I already had a recipe for a tortilla soup that I was perfectly happy with. But when I went home for Christmas and my sister made the soup she had been raving about, I had to admit it to myself: this one was better. 

So, just give in and make this soup for your own good.

As I mentioned this isn't one I can take credit for. But you can find it here.

And best of all, it is a breeze to make. Just saute the onions and throw everything else in a crockpot or just a regular pot and cook. Then pull the chicken out to shred and add it back again. If you don't have that much time and are willing to settle for slightly less succulent meat, just put the heat on medium and check the chicken after 15-20 minutes. 

The soup itself is great, but topping it is more than half the fun. Green onions, sour cream, grated cheese, avocado, hot sauce, red onions, salsa, cilantro, lime juice, chips, freshly fried tortilla strips. Go wild!


Shepard's Pie

It's that time of year folks. Cold, dreary, dark. I don't know about you, but all I want to do is make a cup of tea and wrap up in a blanket so I can dream about warmer, sunnier places. Oh, and eat comfort food.

That is what inspired the latest creation to come out of my kitchen: shepard's pie. But with a twist. What appears to be fluffy, rich mashed potatoes covered in cheese is, in fact, cauliflower covered in cheese. Who knew cauliflower could be so versatile!? I'm just thrilled and to think I used pass over this vegetable in the grocery store.


Spinach Chicken with Rosemary Sweet Potates

Just looking at this plate cheers me up!

Vibrant food somehow makes me excited to eat it. Mostly because I'm convinced that eating it will make me just as vibrant.

Having just started my sugar-detox, I was experiencing some pretty intense sugar cravings. Ones that had my brain thinking things like ... Why did you decide to do this to me? Chocolate doesn't count as sugar right? There are antioxidants in it or something. Can't we end this tomorrow? Or um ... right now? 

So to give in without giving in, I decided to turn to sweet potatoes. While they are sweet as can be, they also have some great nutritional benefits as well: They are a good source of fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium as well as a very good source of vitamin A, Vitamin C and Manganese. Just see for yourself here.

Of course, sweet potatoes by themselves don't make a meal. To round out the sweet with some savory flavors, I teamed it up roasted chicken and a warm spinach salad. The salty feta crumbles and bacon bits melt together with the spinach.

Cherry Nut Granola


I am not a morning person. By that, I mean if you ask me anything directly after I get up, expect ogre-like grunts and angry muttering. So much so, in fact, that when I was a teenager living at home, my mother once informed our houseguests to avoid initiating conversation with me until I'd been awake for 30 minutes. Ok, it was actually 45. But that's beside the point. Basically, this granola almost makes me excited to get up, which is pretty much unheard of.
I was perusing the aisles of the grocery store, trying to find some decent breakfast fuel only to discover that everything was both overpriced and filled with added sugar or contained strange dried fruits I had no interest in chewing on.  
Then it hit me. I don't have to buy this! I can make my own!! This realization was almost as liberating as going grocery shopping for the first time without my parents and discovering I could buy exactly what I wanted to eat. O the joyyy!!
The recipe I ended up with is something you can clearly use as a basis to create your very own favorite granola. Just replace the nuts with ones you like and add your favorite dried fruits. 

It is just heavenly with plain yogurt or cottage cheese and then a some of fresh (or frozen and defrosted) berries. And unlike eating a piece of toast with jam or bowl of cinnamon toast crunch, this will keep you satisfied for a while. With all that fiber from the steel cut oats,  antioxidants from the berries (and walnuts!*) plus the protein from the nuts and cottage cheese, you will be set to take on the morning. Yes, there is fat in the nuts, but it's unsaturated so breath a sigh of relief and enjoy!
*I only recently found out that they are right up there with blueberries in terms of antixoidants! Who doesn't want to fight free-radical damage that can contribute to heart disease, premature aging and cancer? (To read more, see Times article)