Spinach, Black Beans & Seared Tuna Salad

Spring has officially arrived! The beautiful, breezy, warm California weather has inspired me in many ways, especially in the kitchen. This weekend I cleaned out the fridge and the pantry of all of those not so healthy culprits still hanging around from the Holidays, and then went to the Farmer’s Market and stocked up on tons of fresh  fruits and vegetables, bright aromatic herbs, beautiful spring flowers, and enough spinach to feed an army! I am a salad girl…I have some type of salad almost every single day. But to keep myself from getting bored with eating the same old thing, I am constantly changing up the ingredients and utilizing what is fresh and in season to give my taste buds and my body a little healthy variety.

Right now, I am addicted to this delicious Spinach Salad with black beans and Seared Tuna. It’s simple, easy, and fresh but packs huge flavor and spice.

Spring Salad

SPINACH, BLACK BEANS & SEARED TUNA SALAD

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4-6 oz fresh ahi tuna (or any fish you prefer)
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1/4 cup cooked black beans
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 jalapeno (optional if you don’t like spice)
  • 1 small avocado
  • 1 handful of fresh cilantro
  • 2 tbsp of non-fat greek yogurt
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

I marinate my tuna for a few hours in the refrigerator if possible with a little olive oil, lemon juice, sprinkle of salt and pepper, and rubbing in 1/2 diced jalapeno and chopped, fresh cilantro. Before cooking the tuna I prepare the salad.  In a bowl, mash ripe avocado with fork. Mix in greek yogurt, diced tomato, 1/2 diced jalapeno and fresh cilantro (tastes just like guacamole with the added benefits of protein, probiotics and calcium). Sear your tuna on high heat for just a few minutes on each side.  Place spinach on large plate, top with cooked black beans. In the center dollop the avocado mixture and place cooked fish in the center. Squeeze lemon juice over the salad….and VOILA!

recipe | cilantro pesto

Hello Loves! I took a bit of an end-of-summer hiatus from blogging recently to get out and enjoy life , but I am back full-force. I woke up this morning and realized how much I missed being in my kitchen, exploring new foods and recipes, and with a yearning and longing to head to the farmers market. So, that is exactly what I did. I got up early, strong cup of coffee in hand and went to a local market and simply luxuriated in all of the gorgeous fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The colors were so vibrant and stunning, the aromas overwhelmingly strong and fresh…I was literally in heaven!  I picked up some beautiful tomatoes, strawberries, peaches and okra (the things I know won’t be around much longer) as well as tons of greens and an enormous amount of cilantro, basil, and mint.  The smell of the herbs was so sweet and strong, I couldn’t resist.  When I got home I immediately wanted to make something  tasty to accompany my eggs, and the cilantro was just speaking to me. So, I decided to make my Green Cilantro Pesto. It is so simple and easy, but with a big punch of flavor and that amazing bright cilantro zing. This stuff is seriously good on everything: Toss it into a pasta dish, add a little to jazz up a sandwich, mix it in with quinoa and veggies, or add it to your morning eggs with a few slices of tomato…DELISH! And of course, I have a few photos to share with you!

CILANTRO PESTO (adapted from Sarah Britton’s recipe)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 bunches fresh cilantro
  • 1 small sweet onion, rough chop
  • 1 shallot, rough chop
  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp of organic local honey
  • Salt to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Trim ends off cilantro bunches and place them in a large bowl of fresh water, dunking them several times. Drain water and repeat once more to be sure that all of the dirt has been removed. In a blender, puree onion, shallot, and lemon juice. Add cilantro (both leaves and stems), and remaining ingredients to blender and blend until mix is uniformly green and smooth. Add salt to taste, and Voila!

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recipe | raw cacao+coconut bites

I am a girl who LOVES rich, decadent, dark chocolate. And despite my best efforts I almost always indulge in a little something sweet before bed every night.  For me, there is definitely an emotional comfort and a simple pleasure in a small bite of chocolate before I wind down for the night. For months I have been in love with these delicious raw tarts which I buy from Whole Foods. And believe me, the Chocolate-Mint Miracle Tart is truly sinful. But because I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen and trying new recipes, I wanted to attempt a raw dessert myself. And these Cacao + Coconut Bites are simple, easy to make and the best part is you probably already have all the ingredients in your pantry.  So, when you find yourself without your nightly treat to satisfy that sweet tooth, these can be whipped up in no time.

The recipe does call for Coconut Oil. Which I use for almost everything, but because I know some of you have already told me that you have no idea where to start with this oil, I wanted to give you a quick run-down. Coconut Oil is a saturated fat that for the most part can be used for cooking at high heat. (But be aware, there are some that are not made for high-heat cooking).  It has a consistency similar to butter at room temperate, so melt it slightly if necessary for cooking or baking.  Depending on which variety you buy there may be a very slight coconut flavor, but it is so mild that it has never impacted the flavor of what I am making. It is easier to digest than most oils and studies show it is good for aiding in weight-loss, boosting immunity and helping to relieve stress. As an added benefit it is also a wonderful moisturizer and can be used on dry skin or hair. I use it on my cuticles almost nightly. (Of course, I recommend keeping a separate jar for kitchen and personal use!) I prefer the Fresh-Pressed, Unrefined Virgin Coconut Oil.

RAW CACAO + COCONUT BITES

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups dried, unsweetened coconut (whole foods or other health stores carry this)
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder (you can use natural cocoa powder if you prefer)
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup organic maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin, unrefined coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • dash of cinnamon
  • OPTIONAL: 1 tbsp of nut butter or a handful of carob chips

DIRECTIONS:

Combine the coconut, cocao powder and rolled oats together in a large mixing bowl. Add the coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla and cinnamon (and nut butter or carob chips if using). Stir well until mixture is coated evenly. Set in the fridge for 20 minutes (this step is not necessary, but it does make them easier to handle). Line a serving plate with parchment paper. Make 1 inch balls using your hands and then set them on paper-lined plate. Place in freezer to cool for about 40 minutes until they have hardened. They can be kept in the refrigerator after the time in the freezer. Enjoy with a nice hot cup of mint tea before bed!

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recipe | sun-dried tomato pâté

This recipe requires only a few simple, fresh ingredients, is easy to make and packs a huge punch with a diverse flavor profile. So of course, this sun-dried tomato and macadamia nut pâté has quickly become one of my favorite snacks to whip up. It is tasty enough to eat all by itself, but is also delicious in a wrap or tossed onto a bed of greens. I personally love it served atop fresh baby spinach. There is something really  nice about the melding of the textures and it makes a perfectly light, yet satisfying lunch!

I know there is often times a misconception with macadamia nuts being unhealthy. But, in moderation, they are really quite good for you. While they are high in fat, it is primarily monounsaturated fat, which helps lower cholesterol and decreases your risk of heart disease and stroke. Macadamia nuts are also one of the only food sources that contain palmitoleic acid. Palmitoleic Acid is a type of monounsaturated fatty acid that may speed up metabolism, thus reducing the body’s ability to store fat.  Sounds pretty good, right?

SUN-DRIED TOMATO + MACADAMIA NUT PâTE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup of raw, unsalted macadamia nuts
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, rough chop
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley
  • ¼ tsp himalayan sea salt
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Place nuts and lemon juice in a food processor, blend well until you get small crumbled texture.  Add sun-dried tomatoes, salt and 3/4 of the parsley and blend again until all ingredients are combined. The mixture should remain crumbly and slightly moist. Remove mixture from food processor and place in bowl, adding remaining parsley and black pepper to taste. Enjoy as a simple snack on its own, use in a wrap or place on a bed of greens for a delicious lunch!

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recipe | zucchini patties

Veggie dinner is a frequent occurrence in my household, at least 4-5 times a week.  And while I absolutely love the pure simplicity of roasted or grilled vegetables, every once in a while I crave a different texture and a bit of variety with the flavor patterns. So, I look for new ways to prepare some of my favorite vegetables.  With the warmer weather right around the corner, I know zucchini (aka summer squash) will be a frequent visitor in my kitchen.

Zucchini is a wonderful source of Vitamin C, alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and lutein. Not to mention, the skin is loaded with anti-oxidants (so be sure to leave the skin on when preparing). Because of the strong presence of B-complex Vitamins, zucchini may also help regulate blood sugar, possess anti-inflammatory benefits, and is even being linked to studies showing it may help to protect against diabetes and manage insulin levels. Plus it’s delicious and can be prepared in a variety of ways to help keep it interesting!  And thanks to the folks over at {Smitten Kitchen}, I discovered this little recipe which we eat at least once a month.  I have altered the recipe a great deal to make it gluten-free, and I prepare them a lot thinner, for a bit more crunch.  In many ways the texture reminds me of potato cakes! Toss-up a quick salad for the perfect accompaniment when you want something fresh and light. On the menu: Zucchini Patties and “Little Gem” Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette (I will post the salad recipe very soon).

GLUTEN-FREE ZUCCHINI PATTIES

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb zucchini
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 scallions, sliced thin
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp himalayan salt (or whatever type you prefer)
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free panko bread crumbs
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 2-4 Tbsp olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 300.  Clean zucchini and trim ends.  Using the large holes of a box grater, shred zucchini.  Try to remove the excess moisture from the zucchini by either squeezing the liquid out in whatever method you like.  I would recommend using a cheese cloth and a strainer, but you could also use paper towels and then set in strainer for 10 minutes.  Whisk egg in a large bowl. Add zucchini, almond flour, GF panko, scallions, shallot, garlic, lemon zest, salt & pepper.  Mix well.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  This required 2 batches for me, as I was only able to cook about 5 at a time. Using your hands and a spoon, make the patties of the mixture and carefully drop into hot skillet.   Flatten slightly.  Cook, turning once, until browned, 4-6 minutes on each side.  Transfer to a baking dish.  Repeat with second batch. Place baking dish with patties in the oven and bake for about 5 minutes.  You can always exclude this step, but I like mine extra crispy!

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recipe | spinach w/ lentils + herb-roasted veggies

After an overwhelming response from friends asking about the recipe I made for our lunch last week, I thought I would photograph and share with all of you too! The herb-roasted vegetables are, no doubt the star of this simple salad. I don’t know about y’all, but I have yet to come across a vegetable that doesn’t taste delicious roasted to golden brown perfection with a bit of charring on the edges! I roast a huge pan of veggies no less than three times a week, using whatever I have picked up from the farmer’s market.  I simply chop, sprinkle with herbs, drizzle with bit of olive oil, dash of fresh pepper and into the oven they go. Roasting slowly enhances and intensifies the natural flavors of the vegetables, making them even more delectable. I toss them into a salad for a light lunch, mix with kale and quinoa for dinner, or simply eat them alone as a quick snack.

This particular dish is wonderful because it is light and fresh, but satisfying.  You get fiber and protein from the lentils, tons of phytonutrients from the vibrant green spinach, and loads of other vitamins depending on what vegetables you decide to use.  Not to mention, you end up with a beautiful looking plate with a stunning array of colors.

SPINACH SALAD with LENTILS + HERB-ROASTED VEGGIES

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups steamed lentils, should be warm when meal is ready to serve
  • 5 carrots, washed, peeled, and quartered lengthwise
  • 2 medium yellow squash, washed and cut into thick slices
  • 2 medium shallots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • 8-10 cups of baby spinach
  • NOTE: feel free to substitute your favorite vegetable for the carrots/squash

DRESSING:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • zest of  1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
  • OPTIONAL – drop or two of liquid stevia

DIRECTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 400.  Place carrots, squash, shallot and herbs on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Before placing in oven try to evenly distribute vegetables on baking sheet for more consistent roasting. Roast for 25-30 minutes until veggies are tender and start to get a little brown (You can always cook a little longer if you like them with a little char on the edges, like I do). While the veggies are roasting, prepare the dressing. Simply combine vinegar, lemon juice, 3/4 of the lemon zest, salt and pepper (and stevia if using) in a small mason jar or use a measuring cup. Slowly stir in olive oil and mix well.  To serve, place a heaping handful of spinach on each plate, toss with lentils and 1 tsp of dressing. Arrange roasted vegetables atop plated spinach/lentils.  Drizzle with a bit more dressing and a pinch of lemon zest. This dish is just as delicious warm as it is cold or even room temperature the next day. I will often pack the leftovers for a light + healthy lunch.

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recipe | breakfast quinoa

Warm nutty quinoa has quickly become my favorite go-to breakfast on the weekends. It is simple and super fast to prepare, not to mention you can easily switch up a few ingredients to suit your current cravings. The flavor possibilities with breakfast quinoa are seemingly endless; you can add nuts, seeds, berries, bananas, dried fruit, sweeteners, spices, zest, and the list goes on. Check out a few of my favorite combinations below!

Quinoa, pronounced [keen-wah] is an amino acid-rich seed originating from South America. Besides its unique protein, quinoa is a great source of manganese, magnesium, folate, and the amino acid lysine essential to tissue growth and repair. Quinoa is gluten-free, and is often times mistaken for a grain, because of its ability to be substituted for almost any grain in a recipe. It is easy to digest, light, fluffy, a bit crunchy, and has a slightly nutty flavor. Best of all it’s a great basic staple to any meal. You can make it savory or spicy and load it with veggies for a satisfying lunch or dinner. Or make a recipe like the one below, served a bit sweet with fruit+nuts+non-dairy milk for a comforting, healthy breakfast.

Banana+Walnut Breakfast Quinoa 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup vanilla almond milk (or coconut, soy, rice or any other dairy free milk)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa (whichever color you like best – or mix them like I did)
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds (or hemp or flax seeds)
  • 1 heaping tsp, cinnamon
  • 1 medium banana, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts, chopped
  • optional – sweetener (few drops of stevia or 1 tbsp of organic, grade A maple syrup)
  • optional – a sprinkle of coconut flakes for topping

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat, combine the non-dairy milk, water, quinoa, and chia seeds.  Bring the mixture to a rapid boil, add cinnamon, mix well, and then reduce heat allowing mixture to cook on a low simmer for about 15 minutes or until about three-quarters of the moisture has been absorbed. Remove quinoa mixture from the heat, and stir in sweetener if you are using. Place quinoa into individual serving dishes, and top with sliced banana, walnuts and coconut flakes (if desired). For a creamier texture, simply pour a bit more of the almond milk on top of the mixture. Serve warm!
For other flavor combinations, make the basic quinoa mixture with non-dairy milk, cinnamon, water, and chia seeds. Then add whatever toppings your little heart desires. Here are just a few other delicious ideas to try:
  • blackberries+raspberries+pecans+brown sugar
  • goji berries + silvered almonds + hemp seed
  • strawberries + blueberries + lemon zest
  • dried cranberries + walnuts + orange zest
  • raisins + dried apricot + sunflower seeds

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recipe | hearty kale soup + colorful potatoes

I am a soup fanatic. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I make at least one huge pot of soup every week. There is something so comforting and satisfying about sitting down to a hot bowl of soup loaded with veggies and herbs.  Here in southern california, we are finally starting to see a hint of winter. This week it has been dreary, windy, and cold-ish… so I am taking advantage of this little dip in the temperature to make all of my favorite healthy soup recipes.  Yesterday, I made this deliciously hearty kale soup loaded with herbs, garlic, shallot, and colorful potatoes.  I love using a variety of small potatoes instead of the traditional white potatoes.  While the carbohydrate content is the same, with colorful potatoes you get extra antioxidants, flavonoids, carotenoids, and in some cases lutein all providing extra health benefits. Not to mention, they are simply gorgeous and photograph beautifully! Peruse this article if you want to learn more about potato varieties and their health benefits.

HEARTY KALE SOUP with COLORFUL POTATOES:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large bunch of kale, washed and chopped
  • 6-8 small potatoes of your choice, diced (leave skin on for extra fiber)
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • herb bouquet (thyme, rosemary, bay leaf)
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
  • parmesan cheese to top (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy pot. Add the carrots, garlic, shallot, and onion, cooking until tender.  Add vegetable broth, water, and herb bouquet, pepper and pepper flakes and bring to a low boil. Add potatoes and cook for 8-10 minutes or until tender. Add the red wine vinegar and then the kale little by little, and push down into the hot soup. Once the kale wilts, simmer on low for 15 minutes, or until the kale is tender and no longer bitter.  Remove the herb bouquet and serve hot with a little freshly shaved parmesan and crusty baguette topped with a bit of sun-dried tomato pesto (i will share my recipe for this next week!)

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recipe | lentil clusters

Alright y’all… as promised, the delicious lentil clusters recipe.  I made a version of these last year with a different recipe, and wasn’t that thrilled with the outcome. But a few weeks ago I tried an adaptation from one of my favorite blogs, sprouted kitchen. And let me tell you, they are addicting.  Wonderfully fulfilling, but not heavy.  And they have an amazing flavor that comes from the little pinch of fennel seed (i know its only a pinch, but you absolutely should not leave this out). And the best part is that these little guys are just as good left over (even cold right out of the fridge) as they are piping hot right out of the oven. So far our favorite way to serve them is on a nest of spaghetti squash topped with a little fresh marinara and a dollop of lemon pesto.

LENTIL CLUSTERS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups cooked lentils
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese (or substitute with greek yogurt/low-fat cottage cheese)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parmesan, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 green onions, diced
  • heaping handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp of fennel seed, crushed (do NOT leave this out, it makes a big flavor impact)
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup gluten-free or panko bread crumbs

DIRECTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 400. mix cooked lentils in food processor until you get a sort of lentil mush.  If your lentils are recently cooked and you need to workout a little aggression, you can also mash them by hand with a fork. This method does take a little extra time.  Place mashed lentils into a large bowl. Add the beaten eggs, ricotta cheese (or substitute), fennel seeds, thyme, pepper, garlic, green onion, parsley, lemon zest and the grated parmesan, mixing until combined. Incorporate bread crumbs until evenly distributed.  I find you can form your lentil clusters right away or wait for 20 minutes if you like, either way works just fine. Form balls approximately 1 inch in diameter and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  They won’t expand with cooking, so feel free to place them close together, but not touching. This mixture should make about 16-20 clusters. Bake for 10 minutes, flip and then bake for another 10 minutes. We like ours with a little extra crunch, so I place them under the broiler for about 2 minutes at the end. This has quickly become one of our favorite meals…it is unbelievably delicious, and even keeps my most carnivorous friends happy. bon appetit!

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recipe | spaghetti squash

Ok, so this is not really a recipe as much as it is a “how-to”.  I have always loved spaghetti squash when ordered at a restaurant, but for some reason I felt overwhelmed by the notion of preparing it at home. Why? I have no idea. It might be one of the easiest types of squash to make!  About a year ago while perusing the farmers market, I decided to buy one on a whim.  It was not intimidating at all, in fact it could not have been easier… and now we eat it all the time.

SPAGHETTI SQUASH

WHAT YOU NEED:

  • 1 large spaghetti squash, find one with a nice deep yellow skin
  • 1 cup of water
  • sharp knife
  • rimmed baking pan
  • fork

DIRECTIONS:

Pre-heat your oven to 375. Pierce the skin of the squash with your knife several times in different areas. Pour about 1 cup of water into the bottom of the rimmed baking sheet. Place the whole squash into the pan with water. Carefully place in the oven.  Cook for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. When cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise.  Scoop the seeds and fibrous strings from the center (feel free to save the seeds if you want to roast them later). Lastly, scrape the edges with a fork, to shred the pulp into strands and place into large bowl. Just work your way around the squash until you have an empty shell. I LOVE the flavor spaghetti squash, which is pretty mild and slightly sweet. My favorite way to eat it is by simply adding a little salt, pepper and fresh herbs. But we also eat it with a little homemade marinara or basil pesto on top accompanied by my lentil clusters….a recipe I will be sharing with you soon. Enjoy!

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