Tuscan Salmon Salad with Balsamic Rosemary Black Beans

Fresh. Fast. Easy. This salad is perfect for a hearty lunch or even dinner when you are short on time and can't be bothered to get out a pan. My mom would make it in Spring and Summer when she didn't want to turn on the stove or oven, which would only have made our kitchen even warmer than it already gets in hot, humid Charlotte. All you'll need is a cutting board and a bowl!

Despite how simple this is to prepare, it makes quite a culinary impression. I attribute this all to the rosemary. It's aromatic, earthy and absolutely delicious, but not a combination I would have come up with on my own. And the colors make it just so attractive and appetizing. If you are feeling extra fancy, like garden party fancy, you can sprinkle pine nuts and violet flowers on top.  This is sure to impress even Ina Garten herself.

Besides looking and smelling wonderful, this meal is also great in terms of nutrition. Healthy fats, high protein and fiber along with a long list of vitamins and minerals.

Wild salmon is one of the best sources you will find for essential omega-3 fats, which your body cannot make on its own. The fats are linked to a long list of health benefits from improved brain function and cardiovascular health to lower triglyceride levels in blood, reduced inflammation in the body and cancer prevention. There is also a long list of interesting articles on this topic, but here are a few: Mayo Clinic, Webmd, Sciencedaily.com, Forbes (with link to UCLA study)

Black beans are packed full of wonderful fiber. The fiber helps you regular blood sugar, stay full longer and prevent spikes in the hormone insulin, which tells your body to store sugar in fat cells. Plus they give you protein!

Celery provides you with a good dose of vitamins and minerals despite containing only 10 calories per stalk. They are good source of vitamin A, C, K and B6, riboflavin, calcium, magnesium, carotenoids, folic acid and fiber. Plus they are shown to help lower blood pressure thanks to their phyochemicals called phthalides, which help relax muscles in artery walls and reduce stress hormones. Celery also has cancer fighting properties: Acetylenics and apigenin are shown to stop the growth of cancer cell.

Garlic consumed raw acts as an antioxidant, antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-parasitic addition to the dish. Plus, it's shown to help lower bad cholesterol without bringing down the good high-density lipoproteins we need.

Rosemary contains caffeic acid and rosmarinic acid, which are anti-inflammtory and may help reduce inflammation associated with asthma, liver disease and heart disease. It also helps with Alzheimers by preventing the breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.


Pumpkin Banana Oatmeal Bake

Since I’m so in love with my first oatmeal bake, I decided to try a different version of it: Pumpkin banana!

Let me start off by saying I adore any and all baked goods containing pumpkin. It smells like Christmas and Thanksgiving all wrapped up in one. It just reminds me of being warm, cozy and surrounded by family, friends and laughter. What more could you want?

So you can imagine my DELIGHT when I found that the farmers market here was still selling pumpkins!!! This may be the one and only up side of Winter lasting forever here. I walked towards it with such glee and cradled it in my arms so tenderly that for a second the man selling them was not entirely sure if I was a prospective customer or one of the mentally unstable hobos that frequent the market square. The fact that I had just come from the gym all gross and sweaty did not help. I composed myself, paid for the good and hightailed it home to put that baby in the oven.

Before the night was out I had a scrumptious, hearty and hearth-healthy dessert on my hands.


Lemon Chicken Salad with Walnuts Apples & Feta

This is the kind of salad you don't feel bad about shelling out nine bucks for at a cafe. It won't leave you hungry and every bite tastes like heaven. It's the kind of salad you THINK you can't make for yourself. But OoOO you CAN!

See, I think I've finally cracked the code to those bougie cafe salads. It's that combination of fruit, nuts and cheese that sets their salads a bar above the rest. Think about it. Strawberries, apple, mango? Cashews, almond slices, walnuts? Blue cheese, parmesan, feta? It can be yours!

This is just one combination I came up with:

Coffee Coconut Cheesecake

First time's the charm?

Sometimes ideas work out much better in my head than in reality. This is generally the case after pursuing Pinterest. I'll have this plan to make exquisite personalized stationary and cards from hand-craved potatoes stamps after seeing beautiful block prints and I end up wasting a few potatoes and making a mess with paint before throwing it all out. I can't be the only one?... Right?

Well yesterday I finally embarked on one of those crackpot ideas that actually exceeded my expectations. The kind of breakthrough that keeps me trying ridiculous things.

I present to you: coffee coconut cheesecake with a peanut-almond date crust. It's luscious. I made it less than 24 hours ago and exactly two pieces are left now. It's not all my doing, I promise I brought it to a girls night. My guinea pigs were in luck this time.

I've been hung up on using instant decaf coffee powder in a dessert for the last week or so. Then yesterday while browsing one of my favorite paleo blogs, omgpaleo, for inspiration, I came across her using dates and coconut for Triple Chocolate Mousse Cups. But this combination set me off on the path to success!!


Sweet Potato Hash & Fried Eggs

Breakfast for dinner. Sometimes it's exactly what you need. 
Last night was one of those nights.

I entertained the idea of a frittata, but was just too hungry to wait for an oven to preheat and bake something. I wanted food fast! And someone has been begging me to cook sweet potatoes again so I put two and two together and got this. Fried eggs on a bed of sweet potato hash and warm feta spinach. Simple, effective and fast!

Creamy, salty feta, distinctly sweet hash browns with delicious egg yolk melting all the flavors together. Yum!

I know a lot of people worry about cholesterol when eating eggs, counting how many they consume each week. If you happen to find yourself in this group or are just interested in the subject check out this article I found on examine.com. Examine.com is in an independent organization which collates information on supplements and nutrition and provides summaries of current research findings in layman's terms, complete with citations and links to the studies themselves.


New Take on Traditional Swiss Treat: Wäie (Wähe)

I had an epiphany this weekend: One of my beloved childhood treats, wäie or wähe, was a perfect candidate for a free-sugar, gluten-free makeover.

The Swiss tart has a flaky pastry crust that is filled with an eggy custard and savory (cheese, spinach and onions) or sweets ingredients (seasonal fruit). Traditionally, you have the first then the latter. It is usually made in a sheet-cake pan, tart pan or pie pan.

But by American standards the sweet version is not actually all that sweet. An entire pie only includes 3 T. of sugar to begin with. I’ve seen people in Starbucks put more sugar in their venti coffee. I just replaced it with honey in my version. My only real challenge was finding something to use instead of the pastry crust. Since ground hazel nuts are often sprinkled in the bottom of the sweet version before pouring in the fruit and custard, I used them along with oats and butter to make a crust.

Tapas: Hummus & Spinach Artichoke Dip

Tapas: For when you want dinner to feel like an endless snack.

They are a great meal for someone who loves to graze like me. But they also make perfect sustenance for movie marathons or a spread for a social gathering where you want to mingle and eat without having to worry about table settings and silverware. Just dip and munch. Again and again and again.

Now some of you might associate tapas with bits of meat, fish and vegetables swimming in oil, but I promise there is another healthier and equally satisfying way to do it!
Tonight, I only made hummus and spinach artichoke dip, because it was just the two of us home on a Sunday night, but for bigger groups I throw in rosemary roasted potatoes wedges or honey-curry chicken. The options are endless and as I make other tapas I'll be sure to add the recipes for those as well.


Sesame Beef & Veggie Stir-Fry

Whenever I feel a little sluggish and notice that I'm bruising a little too easily, I eat red meat.

It gets a bad rap and people often link it with heart disease, but a lot of this comes down to the cut of meat you eat, how much and how frequently you consume it and how you cook it. Occasional indulgence is the way to go.

Regularly eating Kobe beef (if you could afford to!) is sure to shorten your lifespan, but not all cuts are high in saturated fat that will clog up your arteries and raise your cholesterol. With a lean cut of beef (guide to leaner cuts) you are getting a great source of protein, zinc, vitamin B12 and iron. While protein helps your body build bones and muscles, zinc promotes a strong immune system and B12 keeps nerves and red blood cells healthy, what I’m really interested in is the iron. It's an important dietary mineral that helps your body’s red blood cells transport oxygen to all your organs. It’s particular important for women, since we regularly lose blood.

Red meat the one of the best sources of heme iron, which is more readily absorbed by the body than non-heme iron (found in vegetables, grains, beans and lentils). While consuming too much iron can cause it to build up and damage your organs, I typically find myself more on the iron deficient end of the spectrum. To get an idea of where you might be, ask your doctor to run a blood test.

If you want a more extensive overview on red meat, iron, and iron absorption check out these helpful resources: WebMD, Iron Disorders Insitute.

While this dish is a great way to get a decent amount of red meat along with your veggies, the beauty of a stir fry is you can easily swap out ingredients to match the ones in your fridge. Only have chicken and zucchini? Go ahead use those instead! This time I served the dish over tri-colored quinoa instead of rice. If you want to steer clear of white rice too, you can also use brown rice, bulgar or my favorite cauliflower rice.  


Sleeping in and Making Banana Pancakes

Standing in a bathrobe, flipping fluffy banana pancakes while sausages are sizzling and the sweet smell of strawberries and pineapple lingers in the air. Ahhh... if only every morning were like this.

Today, I made it until 10:30 a.m. without so much waking up to roll over. I wasn't even out last night. I was in bed by midnight. My college self who could easily sleep til 3 p.m. and found it difficult to roll out of bed for an 11 a.m. class would be ashamed. It's fair to say that since entering the working world my sleeping patterns have drastically shifted and this is a new personal record. And the absolute best thing to do on a lazy morning is clearly have a leisurely breakfast. So that's just what I did. Banana pancakes covered in decadent Greek yogurt and fresh fruit with lightly browned sausages.

The recipe is exceedingly simple. No flour, no sugar, no milk, no baking powder. Just the basics. The best thing is that you won't feel like you are going to slip into a sugar coma after eating them. And you won't immediately be hungry again an hour later.


Vietnamese Chicken Salad

If I could only eat two types of cuisine for the rest of my life it would be Mexican and Vietnamese. Heavy, cheesy food and then, when I inevitably got sick of that awesome feeling of being absolutely stuffed after every meal, I'd turn to the delicious, fresh flavors of mint, cucumber, lime and rice wine vinegar. These are the types of things I think about. Practical, I know.

This recipe is about as light and fresh as it gets: crisp cabbage, sweet carrots, fresh lime and herbs, salty peanuts and a splash of fish sauce. OK, the fish sauce may sound and smell fish, but it's delicious, just trust me. And this is one of those recipes that will leave you feeling satisfied without feeling stuffed. It's filled with protein from the chicken and fiber from the cabbage, which in incidentally a great source of vitamin C, K and B6 (nutrition data).

Speaking of nutrition data, I'm sure you have noticed by now that I use nutritiondata.com as my primary source for information. It's brilliant for finding out a breakdown of calories, vitamins and minerals as well as how complete of a protein is, how filling/nutritious a food is and its glycemic score. They make it simple for you. They even provided nutritional data on foods in various states (raw, cooked, boiled, etc). This is extremely helpful, because we often forget that cooking foods alters their nutritional content significantly.


Pineapple Shrimp Fried Cauliflower Rice


Yup, I’m back at it again, using cauliflower in places you don’t expect it. This time I went for Chinese fried rice.

With soy sauce, sweet pineapple and savory shrimp dancing on your palate, you kind of forget about the rice anyway. So why not make that filler healthier? It makes me feel so sneaky. I almost wish I had some picky 5-year-old who hates veggies to try the dish out on. Almost.

Not only is this a fast, one-pan meal that will fill you up, you are cutting out all the empty calories in white rice. Just look at the difference in calories (130 to 23) and carbohydrates (28 to 4) in a 100 gram serving of each (source: rice, cauliflower). Plus with cauliflower you are getting thiamin, riboflavin, phosphorus and potassium and a good dose of fiber, vitamin C, K and B6 along with folate, pantothenic acid and manganese. WHEW! Don't you wish you ate cauliflower rice more often?!


Pumpkin & Sweet Potato Soup with Cauliflower Garlic Breadsticks

I was just getting my hopes up that spring would be around the corner and BAM. Winter smacked me in the face with 8 inches of snow. Cold. Dark. Windy. I feel like I’m in Narnia where it’s always winter, but never Christmas. It’s gotten that depressing. It’s gone on that long. Why Germany, why?!?!

It’s not just me imaging it, though. This is actually the gloomiest winter they have had in 43 years, according to the Spiegel online. The average amount of sunshine for winter is already only 160 hours and this year we’ve had about 100 hours less. Coming from North Carolina where the sky is usually Carolina blue, this kinda change is just NOT easy.

Luckily, I had all the ingredients to make this hearty pumpkin soup. Being the squirrel that I am, I bought pumpkins and made puree while they were still in season here and stuck it in my freezer for a rainy, or in this case snowy, day. And with the smell of sweet potatoes and pumpkin filling up your kitchen, it’s hard to be grumpy. Plus, you are doing your body a favour: Sweet potatoes are considered one of the world's healthiest foods. They are good for your cardiovascular health and a rich source of antioxidants and a great source of vitamins (A and especially!), minerals and dietary fiber! See for yourself: sweet potatoe nutrition data. And pumpkins aren't far behind either: They are also packed with vitamin A and fiber (pumpkin nutirition data).

Making soup also gave my a chance to try out my latest idea: Cauliflower breadsticks! And they were everything I wanted them to be and more. Cheesy, melty, crispy and so much better for you since they aren’t smothered in butter and olive oil. If you are interested, but wary about making cauliflower pizza crust, I would try this recipe out first. This way whole meal isn’t riding on whether you like it or not. But I’m betting they will win you over!


Detox Halfway Point & Southwestern Stuffed Peppers

Detox update and resolutions: I’ve made it halfway!! I’m currently on day 23 of 40 and I have to admit that my old habits are starting to breakdown. Things are getting easier. There is light… in the middle of the tunnel?? OK, maybe that metaphor just doesn’t work here.

But seriously, I feel great! I no longer miss that cup of coffee in the morning or afternoon. I’m actually awake! I’m almost annoyed at how chipper I am. My energy levels aren’t all over the place like they used to be. No more foggy mornings and post-lunch crashes. And now that I have brought sugar-free desserts back into my life, I feel less deprived.

So with all the success I’m finding, I’ve been asking myself: How does life continue after this experiment ends? Will I continue with some of these new "habits" or will I go back to my old ways? What small changes are reasonable or necessary?

Caffeine/Coffee: To be fair, I never really drank coffee regularly until my last two years of college. It’s only in the last three years when I started working at a company with a free coffee machine that gave me the option of cappuccinos and latte macchiato that I really became a two-cups-a-day sorta gal. Now that I have step away from this, I realize what a vicious cycle it can become. I needed the coffee, because I was drinking the coffee. I was drinking the coffee, because I needed the coffee. But I have also just grown to love the taste and smell, especially when eating baked goods. It’s therapeutic and romantic to hold that warm cup in your hands while the aroma swirls around you. I don’t want to give that up. My other reservation is that sometimes that caffeine boost is just what I want.
Resolution: I’m going to try to drink only decaf during the week and save regular coffee for weekends and special occasions involving baked goods.

Processed carbs: Surprisingly, this has been the easiest change for me emotionally. I don’t really miss pasta and bread all that much. Weird, I know. But with all the alternative sources of carbs (beans, lentils, quinoa, etc.), my body doesn’t seem to crave them. The cauliflower-based alternatives (rice, pizza crust, mashed potatoes) are really going a long way in helping me stay satisfied. The only real problem is that you have to think about where your calories are going to come from.
Resolution: I want my diet to rely less on processed carbs, but I don’t intend to cut them out entirely. By that I mean I don’t want my standard breakfast to always be toast or to have dinner include pasta more than three nights a week. I have no qualms about eating processed carbs when I eat out, because I only really do that a few times a week. And I will go back to baking with flour, but hope to start bringing gluten-free recipes into my baking repertoire.

Sugar/Sweets: This is a tough one. I’m still thinking about how to approach it, because sugar is in things that are dear to me and I just refuse to live without – namely baked goods and chocolate. Being Swiss pretty much means chocolate runs through my veins. It’s my life source. It contributes to my quality of life and joy. It’s not something I want to give up entirely. But since cutting sugar out, I’ve become acutely aware of how much I was consuming – often without evening knowing it. And I’m fairly certain most people would consider my consumption to be average, which is a little scary. The thing is sugar is added to so many foods that you just forget about – yogurt, canned tomatoes, sandwich meats, crackers and breads. And this is something I CAN do without.
Resolution: I will absolutely start paying more attention when grocery shopping and try to purchase products that do not have added sugar. For instance, I intend to keep buying plain yogurt and stop eating ones that are flavored and make sure my tomato sauce isn’t spiked with sugar. I intend to use as many whole foods in my cooking as possible to help cut out all the other crap that comes along with processed foods. Since I am not willing to give up my baked goods and chocolate, I think I will settle for just making wise choices as to when it’s worth it to eat and when it’s not. Homemade cakes, cookies, pies = Totally worth it. Run-of-the-mill doughnuts and pastries that have been sitting in the office kitchen for four hours drying out already = Probably not worth it. All this said, I’m still not sure what to do about chocolate.

Alcohol: Another tricky one, because it is so closely connected with social activities, celebrations and relaxation. You picture yourself sipping red wine at a delightful dinner party, clinking champagne glasses at a wedding, drinking a refreshing beer on a hot summer’s day while you grill or stirring a mojito by the pool. It’s easy to forget that you are hurting your poor liver and wasting the day after a big celebration feeling rough. Intentionally not drinking really makes you aware of this. But your liver can handle a certain amount of alcohol. The key is just not to over do it – in quantity and frequency. Processing alcohol results in a highly toxic metabolite which can contribute to liver cell damage, but provided you give your liver time to recover it regenerates. And to consider what other factors your body is or will be dealing with at the same time. Are you feeling rundown already? Did you have a lot of caffeine, which also taxes your liver.
Resolution: Clearly, I'm not cutting it out. All things in moderation, even moderation. I see nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of wine while cooking or having that beer while grilling. My main takeaway is to be more intentional and aware of my alcohol consumption. As part of this, I intend to start considering the sugar content of the beverages I'm drinking and try to scale that back as well. 

Enough rambling about what I want to do when the 40 days are over, though. I have to get through them first!

I'm on a roll with Mexican now. First the fajitas, now stuffed red peppers. I'm in heaven. Also, I’m thinking my next Mexican-inspired dish will included mango and a yogurt chicken marinade thanks to my coworker who shared her delicious lunch of grilled chicken and mango with me.

This time I was looking for another protein-boost. After finishing a crossfit workout, I wanted to make sure my sore muscles would had everything they needed. Spiced ground turkey loaded into succulent red peppers was the ticket!! I will be a lean, mean crossfitting machine if I keep eating like this.

Side note: I can't wait to make an Italian version of this.


Banana Berry Cheesecake

Turns out I CAN have my cake and eat it too. Creamy, crumbly cheesecake. I’m so excittteed!!

No artificial sweeteners. No flour. Just good old fashion oats, nuts, butter, honey and fruit. That’s right.

I knew the next dessert I wanted to try would include cream cheese in some form. So why not go for cheesecake I thought – one of the most decadent, delicious desserts out there. Aim high! I would have to report this a success. I made this Saturday night. By Sunday night, it was all but gone.

Mind you this isn't a calorie-free recipe. I use butter. But after eating it you don't feel that huge sugar rush and then plunge. It's absolutely fantastic with a cup of tea.

Oven Chicken Fajitas

Friday night was fajita night! And movie night, but that’s beside the point. If I don’t have Mexican food at least one a week, something just feels wrong. Somehow my body craves spicy meat, fresh lime and creamy avocado.

Living in Germany does not make this easy, because there are all of two Mexican restaurants in Frankfurt neither of which actually serve Mexican food. And to make matters worse, you can’t find any decent salsa, chips or corn tortillas in regular supermarkets. That requires a trip to an indoor farmer’s market.

I do the best with what I can find, though. And tonight’s meal was cooked with ingredients that I even I can get my hands on at a local grocery store. The beauty of this dish was that while it took a while to cook, it did not take long to prep (15 mins). And everything went into just one massive casserole dish, so limited cleanup!

I served this over a bed of lettuce with avocado and sour cream. Were I not completed cutting out processed carbs, I would have used it as a filling in tortillas or eaten the salad with some tortillas chips crumbled on top.


Lemon Ginger Detox Drink

This is how I've been jump starting my mornings lately. Lemon-ginger water. 

Before starting on my 40-day health quest, I had read and heard that drinking lemon water right when you get up was a must-do. Models and celebrities like Miranda Kerr and Gwyenth Paltrow seem to swear by it. So I looked into myself. And let me tell you: It may not seem like much, but I guarantee you will feel it working... sometimes within minutes. I'll just put it that way.

Besides starting your day off with a little vitamin C and hydration, the lemon juice is considered an antioxidant and mild diuretic that supports your liver and kidney in their job of flushing out toxins. You can read more about the benefits here.

To save time, I prepare a big pitcher of lemon juice and ginger on Sundays and have it waiting in the fridge for me. Each morning, I pour a few tablespoons into a glass and add room-temperature water.


Asian Tuna Burger with Wasabi Honey Mustard Slaw

I’m wearing short sleeves and pulling out the spring/summer recipes while I can. Springtime has finally arrived in Frankfurt! The high yesterday was 60F. Never mind that snow is forecast for Monday. [womp. womp.]

To celebrate the sun while it was around, I decided to cook one of my very favorite recipes. It’s sweet, spicy and savory. These little burgers pack a huge punch of flavor with ginger, garlic and soy sauce. But the real star of this meal is the wasabi honey mustard sauce. I just want to cover everything in it.

Typically, I eat the burgers on toasted hamburger buns or English muffins, or I put them in wraps with salad. With my self-imposed ban on processed carbs, I just served them over a mango slaw.


Mango Red Curry Chicken with Coconut Cauliflower Rice

Red curry paste has only recently become a staple in my kitchen. Honestly, I don't know what took me so long. It’s an easy way to add a punch of complex flavors to your dishes with minimal effort. Generally the paste consists of chili peppers, garlic, lemongrass, cumin, cilantro, fish sauce and let’s not forget galangal – a root that tastes kind of like ginger. All this and all you have to do is measure out a few teaspoons. I can no longer imagine cooking without it.
As always, this recipe is just a starting point. The onions, garlic, paste, broth and coconut milk are just a sauce. You can replace chicken with chickpeas for a vegetarian version or change up the vegetables: put in snow peas, broccoli, wilted spinach, red bell peppers or carrots. Whatever you feel like!!

As for the cauliflower rice, I’m a HUGE fan. It’s so fluffy and light, but still soaks up the sauce – all this at a fraction of the calories in rice. One cup of white rice has about 200 calories compared with 30 for a cup of cauiflower. Plus you get vitamin C, potassium, fiber and some folate. Like other cruciferous veggies, cauiflower is also famous for its cancer-fighting properties. The vegetable contains sulforaphane, which enters the bloodstream and boosts your antioxicant defense system and helps the body disarm and remove carcenogenic compounds from the body. And these are just a few of the reason to give cauliflower a try!

Smoked Salmon Sushi Burritos

Refreshing, light and full of flavor! I love sushi, but I don’t love all the time it takes to roll and cut it into bite-sized pieces. And thus, the sushi burrito was born – the lazy way to enjoy sushi flavors.

The “burrito” in the picture above clearly was a bit of a disaster. Fillings were spilling out everywhere. What can I say, I got a little carried away. My burrito-wrapping technique was all off. But by the end of my meal, it got there! This video may or may not have helped.

What to love:
  • Quinoa has a leg up on white rice in terms of nutrition. It has twice the protein and is one of the few foods in the world that is a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids your body needs. Quinoa also contains fewer calories and carbs and more vitamin and minerals and fiber. See for yourself, here.
  • The salmon and avocado also provide your with heart-healthy unsaturated fats that help lower blood pressure. Avocado also have a fair amount of protein itself.
  • The nori paper (seaweed) also is rich in Vitamin C and B6, Idonie. 
  • Carrots are rich in Vitamin A and C, which help fight free-radical damage in the body. They also contain the antioxidants beta carotene and fakcarinol, which promote healthy vision and may help fight cancer by destroying precancerous cells in tumors.

Nutritional data: : Salmon, Avocados, Nori.

Cauliflower Pizza With Artichoke, Sun-Dried Tomatoes And Chicken

With its crispy edges and cheesy center, cauliflower pizza crust has hit the Internet by storm. It’s on just about any respectable foodie’s pinterest. I tease, but with all these recipes for cauliflower pizza crust floating around I had to give it a try myself.

Clearly, the crust is not going to taste exactly the same, but the most frequent main complaint is that the crust is too weak and floppy to hold up toppings. Ooo, but it CAN! It’s just a matter of adding enough egg and pre-baking the crust long enough – but not too long. It’s a delicate thing you see. While you want to bake it enough to let the excess moisture off before pilling on the topping, you don’t want it black on the edges by the time the toppings and cheese are golden brown. Slightly tricky.

My tip: Try to make sure the edges of your crust are just as thick, if not thicker, than the center. Edges are going to bake faster, so given them a fighting chance. If they still aren’t crispy enough for your liking, crank up the heat toward the end of baking time to toast them up.


Apple Berry Nut Oatmeal Bake

This picture and my photography skills do not do this dish justice. Warm apples, cinnamon, fluffy oats, sweet berries and walnuts. A hint of lemon and coconut. All this with absolutely no refined sugar or added fat.

About a bazillion people at work have had birthdays in the last two weeks. Much to my displeasure, this has meant I’ve been surrounded by tempting pastries and baked goods: homemade chocolate cupcakes, cheese danishes, an assortment of glazed doughnuts, cheery turnovers and, last but not least, cinnamon shortbread have been waiting in the office kitchen when I get my tea. As if pressing the hot-water button instead of the coffee button was not enough of a challenge. I have literally taken a knife and cut one of these pastries open just to smell its sugary deliciousness.

That’s when I realized I needed something to replace these sweets. A dessert that was sugar-detox approved. My sister pointed me in the direction of a very helpful food blog called Budget Bytes and I made a few adjustments to her recipe to make it “detox” friendly. Best of all, it is hearty enough to have as a breakfast as well!

Cilantro-lime tilapia with Black Bean Quinoa Fritters

I’m not sure about you guys, but there are few things I like better than shopping for food. Getting to put all of my prized purchases into the fridge and pantry are a close second. I feel so wealthy, so gleeful knowing all the joy I’m going to get out of cooking and eating all this food. I’m ready to play! But enough about my squirrel-like tendencies.

Going shopping meant I could finally make my black bean fritters. Rejoice! After eating such a light dinner the night before (Broccoli Beet Salad), I really needed a protein boost so I decided to have them with lime-cilantro tilapia. After all, one can only eat so many salads and feel satisfied – even if they are filled with delicious artichoke hearts and bacon bits.

The beautiful thing about quinoa fritters is they are so versatile. Depending on what the rest of your meal looks like, you can change the spices and the “goodies.” This time I was going for Southwestern flavors: earthy cumin, smoky chili powder, paprika and a little cayenne pepper for a kick. When I’m going for Italian flavors, I sprinkle in dried basil, oregano and some chili flakes along with sun dried tomatoes and some parmesan cheese.