A Berry Pretty Salad
- Toast pecans lightly in a dry skillet over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 6 minutes or until fragrant. While still warm, add honey to pecans and toss to coat.
- Mix extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon, and salt in jar or container. Shake vigorously until emulsified.
- Divide lettuce between two bowls for two large dinner salads or four bowls for smaller side salads. Top with toasted pecans, crumbled goat cheese, berries, and salad dressing. Add cracked pepper to salad, to taste. Garnish with pansies or violas for an extra special and beautiful salad.
Real Fresh, Real Delicious Orange-Lime Margarita
- Moisten the rim of a glass with orange wedge and add salt to the rim if desired.
- Add orange juice, lime juice, orange liqueur, tequila, and agave nectar to a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
- Shake until cold and then strain over crushed ice into glass.
- Garnish with an orange wedge and sprig of mint.
- Place 1⅓ cup of quinoa in fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water for one minute. Place quinoa in bowl and submerge in filtered water several inches above the quinoa to soak at room temperature for one hour (may be soaked up to 8 hours or overnight as desired). Drain quinoa in fine mesh strainer. Leave quinoa in strainer for sprouting and to keep moist and drained. Place a towel over the strainer to keep dust out. Rinse every 2-6 hours to keep quinoa moist and fresh for about 24 hours until quinoa sprouts appear. (The sprouted quinoa will look like it has little tails.) Place in refrigerator for up to two days or until ready to use in recipe.
- Place quinoa in large saucepan with 1½ cups chicken broth and ½ teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then cover and reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until quinoa is tender. (Cooking sprouted quinoa takes less time and liquid than unsprouted quinoa because it absorbs water during the soaking and sprouting process.)
- In a large skillet, sauté onion over medium-high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add diced tomatoes, chickpeas, and spinach/kale to the pot and cook for 2-3 minutes until greens are wilted and the tomatoes and chickpeas are warmed through.
- Take off heat. Stir in pesto and 1 ounce Parmesan until combined. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.
- Garnish with additional parmesan as desired.
When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions, white parts of the scallions, and all the peppers to the pot. Once they are softened, add the garlic and cook for a minute. Remove the mixture from the pot and set aside before cooking the ground beef.
Once the beef is cooked through and broken up, add the onions back to the pot. Create a little well in the center of the pot before adding the spices. Toasting the spices briefly in the well helps brighten the flavors.
2 medium onions, diced medium
4 scallions, white parts minced and green tops sliced thin for toppings
1 large green bell pepper, diced medium
1 large yellow or orange bell pepper, diced medium
2 medium jalapenos, chopped fine
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 pounds 85/15 ground beef
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup chili powder
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon chipotle chili powder (optional)
1 can crushed tomatoes (23 oz)
2 cups filtered water
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
Sliced green onions
Need some more fast recipes to keep warm with? Check these out:
‘Tis the season of giving… but that can add up pretty quickly if you’re shopping for friends, family, coworkers, cousins, neighbors, and more! Don’t stress. One gift that’s quick, easy, and cheap while still being thoughtfully creative is FOOD. Here’s a list of fun and simple ideas for edible gifts you can do without breaking the bank:
Fill quart-sized mason jars with different types of nuts and dried fruits as a beautiful and nutritious gift of trail mix. Try alternating layers of shelled pistachios with dried cranberries for a festive red-green treat that is sure to satisfy. Top with a piece of red or green construction paper, a piece of twine, and a gift tag to complete the presentation.
Find a nearby Brookshire Brothers to pick up any ingredients you don't already have on hand!
ALL BARK AND TASTY BITES
Chocolate bark is one of the easiest confections, and you can go as far as the North Pole in terms of flavor combinations! Just melt your favorite baking chocolate according to the package instructions, spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, add mix-ins and toppings, and then refrigerate until hardened. One of my favorite colorful holiday combinations is white chocolate, crushed peppermints, and unsalted pistachios or pumpkin seeds. S’more bark is another fun take: chocolate + marshmallows + pieces of graham crackers + pecans = YUM.
EVERYONE LOVES BANANA BREAD
Banana Nut Bread is always a classic, plus it’s a great source of potassium and B vitamin! Check out my recipe for the best banana nut bread ever, which can easily be made into mini-loaves or muffins for easy distribution. Your friends and family will surely appreciate your loaves of love.
INFUSE OLIVE OIL WITH ROSEMARY
Olive oil is a unique gift with a bright shining halo of health in the world of nutrition. You can personalize the gift buy infusing it with rosemary. If time allows, you can easily personalize the gift by infusing the olive oil with rosemary. Dry whole sprigs of fresh rosemary by placing washed sprigs on a baking sheet. Put it in the oven for 2 - 4 hours on the lowest temperature setting. When the rosemary sprigs are brittle and have cooled, add to a bottle with your favorite extra virgin olive oil and allow it to infuse for a week or up to several months. Gift the oil for dipping with your favorite Brookshire Brothers artisan bakery bread. #BestNeighborEVER
For more on the health benefits of olive oil (as well as a recipe for an Easy Caprese Salad), read my ode here!
WARM UP WITH HOMEMADE SOUP
Share your Christmas spirit by the spoonful when you save your loved ones meal prep time with homemade soup! Fix your favorite wintertime soup, separate it into mason jars to distribute, and add a tag with freezing and re-heating instructions for a personal touch. This gift is delicious and easy to freeze if your friends/family want to save it for later. One of my favorites to share is winter squash soup—get the recipe here!
May your holidays be filled with delicious treats and special memories. Merry Christmas!
Nine New Foods and Drinks to Try this Month
This probiotic fermented tea is a totally fresh way to get your daily dose of healthy bacterial goodness. This probiotic bacteria can do beneficial wonders for your gut and immune system. Better yet, kombucha is a perfect alternative to soda because it is bubbly, tangy, low in carbohydrate, and comes in a variety of flavors.
These grains and seeds have recently become trendy, but, ironically, their consumption was common before the advent of modern food production. Because grains are actually just seeds, they can be soaked and sprouted prior to consumption. Sprouting unleashes a seed’s potential because they keep their nutrition stores locked up until germination—a process that sends a signal to the seed to release the nutrients needed to grow a plant. Sprouting thus increases digestibility and the availability of nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, vitamin C, and even protein. Most of these nutrients are hard to get enough of—especially for those with limited meat intake—which makes sprouts extra beneficial. These foods—rice, wheat, quinoa, pumpkin seeds, and a variety of others—are “sprouting” up regularly now, so give them a try!
So maybe you tried radishes once or even twice, and you subsequently wrote them off as something on the “don’t like” list. Please, TRY THEM AGAIN. You see, radishes are not the kind of thing you should just bite into and decide whether you like them. Instead, they belong as a beautiful complement to other foods. Slice radishes thinly and add them to salads for a beautiful pop of color and a zesty crunch with a faintly peppery bite. Better yet, toss them in with a batch of roasted veggies. When roasted they lose their peppery bite and become sweet little veggie orbs. Here’s the deal: Olive oil, salt, and pepper + any other roasting veggie of your choice + 425F degrees for about 20 minutes = RADISH MAGIC. You can even throw in the radish leaves with your roasted veggie mashup and they’ll crisp up in the oven to make nicely toasted chips.
Turnips are cooked like potatoes and have a similar flavor, except they’re very low calorie and extremely nutritious. Consider shaking your next soup up with turnips in place of potatoes—and don’t toss the turnip greens! With a little butter, salt, and pepper, sautéed turnip greens make for a delicious side dish. Or, try tossing the greens in your vegetable soup similar to the way you would use spinach. Delicious, nutritious, and thrifty—turnips have it all.
Kefir is a probiotic fermented milk product that is similar in flavor to yogurt, but typically has many more strains of beneficial bacteria and yeast. AKA, it’s great for gut health. You can find it in a variety of flavors similar to smoothie drinks. However, be aware that—like yogurt—it often has added sugars, so keep an eye on portion size or choose plain products. A fun twist on kefir is to make it savory rather than sweet by choosing plain kefir and adding salt to taste.
Lentils are nutrition powerhouses. They are an excellent source of protein and rich in a variety of nutrients, including folate, vitamin C, iron, zinc, vitamin K, choline, and the other B vitamins. Lentils are most frequently found in soup recipes, but they can also be used in salads, rice dishes, or standalone side dishes.
Sauerkraut may have a funny name, but it’s definitely a star when it comes to adding a salty crunch to sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, or even as a snack. Fermentation is the simple process of adding salt to the cabbage to create brine; thus, sauerkraut is traditionally made without heat canning. If the right amount of salt is added, the conditions are perfect for the beneficial bacteria naturally present on the vegetable’s surface to multiply and “cure” the cabbage, creating flavorful compounds. The bacteria even improve the nutritional qualities of the cabbage because it can produce nutrients as the cabbage cures. Fermented sauerkraut that has never been heated retains its wonderful probiotic qualities, plus it’s crispier than canned or cooked varieties. Better yet, you can even find different flavors, such as my favorite— Farmhouse Cultures Smoked Jalapeno Sauerkraut.
Okay, so most people like butter, so it shouldn’t be a big ask to get you to try a new brand. Kerrygold butter is worth a try because the flavor is rich and the beautiful golden hue is due to the high beta-carotene content of the premium quality milk. Once you taste it, you’ll never look back.
Healthy suggestions for making the most of your brain when it's needed most
You may have heard it before, but I’m telling you again omega-3 fats really are good for the brain. Keep your noggin filled with good vibes by eating at least 3-4 oz each week of fatty fish like salmon or sardines. Your dorm mates or coworkers don’t appreciate you microwaving a filet of salmon? No problem. Try ready-to-eat foods like canned sardines instead, or—my favorite—packages of wild caught Alaskan salmon. Slap it on some bread with mayo and a little relish, and you’ve got a full-fledged feast that’s on-the-go convenient. Thank you… your brain says.
Do I really need to give you an excuse to eat chocolate? Chocolate is rich in antioxidants and brain-boosting minerals like iron and magnesium. Best of all, it has a little bit of caffeine to get you through a slow slump, and I would wager that snacking on such a treat would help ease some anxiety (exam-related or otherwise).
Nuts and Seeds
Take your snack a step further by pairing the dark chocolate with some nuts and seeds. When you eat a variety of nuts and seeds, you also get a variety of brain boosting benefits. Case in point: brazil nuts are loaded with the antioxidant selenium; walnuts are rich in omega-3; almonds are full of vitamin E; and pumpkin seeds are packed with zinc and magnesium. Mix up some trail mix and munch away.
Okay, so not exactly a nutrient, but listening to some calming yet stimulating music can help maintain focus—a particularly useful perk during long study sessions. Besides, Mozart was pretty smart, so maybe listening to his music will make you smarter by osmosis.
Coffee or Green Tea
A little caffeine has been shown to improve alertness and mental acuity, so an hour or so before heading into an exam (or, say, a major meeting) have a small cup of coffee or green tea. Be cautious, however, about using caffeine to stay up late to study or work. It may interfere with your much-needed sleep.
One last trick to use is to pop a peppermint into your mouth before the big event (test, meeting, interview, etc). Studies have show that eating a mint is stimulating and can help improve blood flow to the brain.