Friends, Food, and The Outdoors

Need I say more?

My three favorite things in the world…food, friends, and the outdoors! This past weekend Anthony and I joined our landlord and some friends to celebrate a birthday at Malibu Wines, yes my fourth fav! 😉 This place is a wonderful location for a picnic like this because of the great live music and gorgeous grounds!

We had a fabulous time and were about to enjoy some incredible bites! Each of the individuals whom joined us brought a dish from their unique culture. We savored: El Salvadorian Guac, Italian Crab Pesto Pasta Salad, Asian shrimp and beef spring rolls, Spanish Fruit Salad, European Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus, and our American Mixed Green Salad & Goat Chevre with Peach Red Chili Jam. Much better than any restaurant could offer!

This Goat Chevre is one of my favorite simple appetizers! Trader Joe’s has this incredible three pack. Offering plain, red pepper, and fresh herb seasoned cheese. I enjoy paring these with some of Trader’s Savory Rice Crackers! Place the cheeses out on a nice board. Top the plain with some spicy Peach Red Chili Jam (available at Whole Foods) and you have some deliciousness!

I also threw together a hearty green salad. A nice salad complete with spinach, arugula, red bell pepper, green onion, avocado, marinated artichoke hearts, cucumber, topped with a little goat feta and tossed with my homemade lemon vinaigrette dressing! Simple healthy, and delicious!

And who doesn’t love ending the delicious chilly afternoon with a glass of wine by fire?? I love Malibu Wines. It is the perfect place for a great picnic!

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A Taste Down Memory Lane

This warm spring weather reminds me of my dad’s amazing BBQ’d dinners. One of my favorite BBQ’d side dishes, which often times turned into my main dish, were his BBQ’d portabella mushrooms. As always I was not going to let this no stove, no oven, and no BBQ living situation stop my cravings! So I created a stuffed portabella mushroom that can be made using the hot plate and toaster oven. With the small cooking area I really focused on making this stuffed mushroom a complete meal. And man did it come out soooo good and hearty! Even Anthony, Mr. Anti-Mushroom, loved it!

Serves: 2

Time:  1 hr

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tsp garlic
  • 2 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 yellow squash, chopped
  • 1 c sliced yellow and red cherry tomatoes
  • 1 diced shallot
  • ½ c prepared lentils (Trader Joe’s)
  • ½ c cooked quinoa or brown rice
  • 2 c spinach leaves
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • 2 portabella mushrooms, remove stalks and chop
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 2 tbsp goat cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat toaster oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Heat a fry pan to medium and add coconut oil, garlic, and shallots. Cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Add squash and mushroom stalks to mixture and cook for 5 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
  4. Add lentils, quinoa/rice, tomatoes, basil, and paprika to fry pan. Cook an additional 5 minutes.
  5. Season the cleaned portabellas with olive oil and Italian seasoning.
  6. Add spinach leaves and lemon juice to fry pan. Cook 2-5 minutes until spinach has wilted.
  7. Stuff mushrooms with completed stuffing. Top with goat cheese.
  8. Cook mushrooms for 20-25 minutes until goat cheese is melted and mushroom caps are cooked.

This flavorful creation is one that you will want not only for dinners but also can be used for appetizers using the mini portabella mushrooms! Skip the goat cheese and you have a vegan meal!

Moma’s Day Tuna Salad

Mother’s Day! A wonderful time to stop and really show mom how much you appreciate her.

My mom, Karen, is absolutely amazing! She has always stood by me and never once judged. She has always picked me up and dusted me off after my many mistakes in my life. She is absolutely my best friend. My mom is one of the individuals that first introduced me to cooking. Even at a young age she kept me involved. She showed me how important it was to eat healthy and be creative with your food!

This Mother’s Day I started off taking my mom and one of my incredible clients on a nice walk to get some delicious coffee. Then it was back to the house to make this delicious salad. This salad is great for this spring time heat wave, high in protein, and yummy enough to keep you coming back for seconds or maybe thirds!

Serves: 4-6 people (great for left overs the next day!)

Time: 20 minutes

Salad Ingredients:

  • 5 c spinach leaves
  • 1 c chopped marinated artichoke hearts
  • 1 1/2 c chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 1 c chopped celery
  • 1 1/2 c chopped cucumber
  • 1 chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 2 cans of tuna; drained
  • 2 avocados chopped
  • crushed black pepper

Salad Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1/2 c balsamic vinegar
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1-2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp spicy mustard
  • 2 tsp minced garlic

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl combine spinach lettuce, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell pepper, artichoke hearts, and tuna. Top with avocados and black pepper.
  2. For dressing combine olive oil, balsamic, lemon juice, black pepper, mustard, and minced garlic in a salad dressing bottle or Tupperware.
  3. Serve it up!

The Dreamy Picnic

So it’s Wednesday, hump day and I often find myself dreaming of past mini vacations. Today one of our recent vacations came into my daydream…our trip to San Luis Obispo! One of my favorite parts of this trip was our yummy picnic wine tasting; healthy amazing food, great Chardonnay, amazing vineyard scenery, and the beautiful Central California sunshine I mean it’s pretty much my idea of heaven.

Edna Valley is such a blissful place. I mean I may be a bit biased since I lived up here for four years while I attended Cal Poly SLO but you have to be crazy not to fall quickly into love with this amazing place.

On our vacations I pack us healthy stuff for breakfast, snacks, and lunches…this not only saves you money but also saves your waistline. For this picnic I pulled out all stops packing some of our favorite treats!

  • Fresh grapes
  • Fresh strawberries
  • Goat Chevre topped with Wild Maine Blueberry Jam served with rice crackers
  • Quick and easy salad in the Tupperware bowls: spinach lettuce, sliced cherry tomatoes, chopped green onion, a splash of crumbled feta and a dash of black pepper served up with some olive oil and balsamic!
  • And for Anthony (the every growing boy) a simple turkey sandwich: whole grain bread, fresh oven roasted turkey breast, spinach lettuce. sliced tomatoes and our (yes I had to have a bite) fav raspberry honey mustard
  • Of course a big bottle of H2O

What’s great about this vineyard picnic? You can pick your fresh bottle to go along with your meal during your wine tasting. Chamisal is such a homey vineyard. They brought out our Chard in a wine cooler and a few glasses (less to pack).

So sit back relax and take some time to enjoy the wine, company, and delectable picnic….it’s truly heaven!

Okay daydreaming stops! Back to work time but with a joyous smile on my face!

Spreading the Health on Cinco De Mayo

Cinco De Mayo is one filled with fun, drinks, and usually pretty heavy food. My absolute favorite snack…chips, salsa, and guac! I swear I can eat the stuff by the pounds! Add in a few margaritas and diet disaster has occurred! So what to do? Make something super yummy to share the clan that will help fill in the chip room in the belly!

Anthony and I made one of our favorite Mexican Salads to share with the clan in Ontario this past weekend!

Why I love:

  • Travels well
  • Everyone one…kids and adults alike love this salad
  • Simple
  • Requires zero cooking
  • Easy to make for 2 or 12!
  • Full of pretty colors
  • Full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber
  • Flavor bursting!

Serves: 10-12

Time: 20 mins

Ingredients:

  • 6 c raw spinach
  • 4 c arugula
  • 1 c fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 can rinsed black beans
  • 1 chopped red bell pepper
  • 4-5 sticks green onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped cucumber
  • 4-5 celery stocks, chopped
  • 1 c chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 1 package of Trader Joes frozen brown rice; cooked and cooled
  • 2 tsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 c crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 jar of salsa

Ingredients for Dressing:

  • 1 lemon, juice
  • 1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
  • crushed black pepper
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • 1/2 c white balsamic vinegar

Directions:

  1. Start the rice. Cook the Trader Joe’s frozen rice. Place in a bowl. Mix in garlic, basil, and grapeseed oil. Place in the fridge.
  2. The Dressing. In a Tupperware or salad dressing bottle mix the lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and black pepper. Shake well.
  3. In a large salad bowl layer spinach leave, arugula, celery, green onion, tomatoes, cucumber, red bell pepper, goat cheese and cilantro. Top with chili powder. If you are traveling with this I recommend bringing the avocados and chopping them on site.
  4. Set out the salad with dressing and salsa on the side. The combo of the lemon mustard vinaigrette and salsa is pretty fab. But let the guests decide!

The Therapy of the Cutting Board

So most of my recipes are centered around quick and easy. Yes life tends to minimize the time we get to spend in the kitchen and it is so important to have those quick and easy healthfull recipes. But every once in awhile I like to put on some music and get lost in my cooking. There is something very therapeutic that comes along with using creative taste-buds in the kitchen. And the appreciation from those whom partake is something I will never complain about!

This recipe, Stuffed Squash and Lemon Chicken was born on one of those stress packed days that I just needed my solo cooking therapy. And excitingly it turned out incredibly tasty!

Serves: 4

Time: 1-1.5 hours

Why I love this:

  • Complex flavors
  • Filling like you just consumed beef stuffed squash
  • The silence you will find from your consumers as they chow down on HEALTH!

Ingredients:

  • 2 yellow squash, cut in half length wise
  • 2 zucchini squash, cut in half length wise
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 1 ½ c chopped mushrooms
  • ½ c lentils
  • 1 ½ c raw spinach leaves
  • 2 tbsp herbed chevre goat cheese
  • 4 chicken breasts or 8 chicken tenderloins
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 3 tsp dried basil
  • Crushed black pepper
  • 2 tsp granulated garlic
  • Juice 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

  1. Rinse chicken breast. Place chicken in bowl or Tupperware. Marinate chicken with 2 tsp granulated garlic, 2 tsp basil, lemon juice, and 1 tbsp olive oil.
  2. Heat a fry pan to medium. Add minced garlic, shallots, and coconut oil. Cook down for 3 minutes.
  3. Begin to core the squash so that you make little boats. Place the meat to the side.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Add mushrooms, black pepper, and grapeseed oil. Cook for another 3 minutes.
  6. Chop the squash meat. Add to the fry pan with paprika. Mix thoroughly and cook for 5 minutes.
  7. Add the lentils and spinach leaves, reduce heat to low and allow mix to simmer for 5-7 minutes.
  8. Fill the boats with the freshly made filling. Top with crumbled goat cheese.
  9. Place in oven for 20 minutes.
  10. 10 minutes after the squash has started heat the fry pan to medium low. Once pan is heated place your chicken breast in pan. Flip every 5 minutes for 15-20 minutes depending on thickness.
  11. Once squash has completed 20 minutes of cooking, increase heat to 425 for another 5-10minutes. Squash is done with the shell is slightly soft and cheese is a light brown.
  12. Serve up your chicken breast and gorgeous stuffed squash!

Now I love this recipe when cooking for a little Friday night gathering for one of our double dates or just for us! The leftovers and wonderful!

Enjoy some kitchen therapy too!

The Sophisticated Brown Bag Lunch

It’s Wednesday, officially the middle of the week! One thing that helps me conquer the later half of a crazy busy week is to tantalize my taste-buds. Yes I am still like a little kid waiting for that sweet treat after a job well done :). And yes during the week I would absolutely love to run to my fav restaurant for a hearty meal but realistically that is not a healthy ritual for my wallet or my waistline. But as always I am determined to have my cake and eat it too!

This is one of my favorite simply delicious lunches at home or on the go (I am usually the later…gotta love a good lunch box!).

Serves: 1

Time: 15 mins

Why I love this dish:

  • tasty
  • cheap
  • travels great!
  • high in nutrition
  • simple
  • restaurant quality

Ingredients:

  • 2 c arugula
  • 1 tbsp crumbled goat cheese
  • 1 sliced beet (Trader Joe’s pre-cooked…check the refrigerated section)
  • 1/4 toasted walnuts (or raw)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • fresh crushed black pepper

Directions:

  1. If you would like the walnuts toasted. Sometimes I am in my 5 min lunch rush and I just throw them in raw. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spread walnuts onto a lined baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes.
  3. Allow walnuts to cool.
  4. Layer arugula, beets, walnuts, and goat cheese. Drizzle the balsamic and olive oil onto the salad. Top with fresh crushed black pepper.

Nutritionally Dense?:

  • Arugula- high in fiber, B6, A, C, K, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, and low in calories and fat
  • Walnuts- high in protein, calcium, omega-3 and iron
  • Goat Cheese- high in calcium, protein, and A
  • Beets- high in fiber, C, Potassium, Folate, and Iron