Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving are are getting a little extra rest and relaxation over this holiday weekend.

I started my break off with some sort of flu-like sickness, so things have been pretty low-key around here.  My fever was really high last Tuesday and Wednesday, to the point where I wasn't even sure I would be able to partake in Thanksgiving festivities.  Fortunately, things got a lot better throughout the day on Thursday.  I rested up and watched the National Dog Show with Wendy.
A few hours later, I was ready to enjoy a delicious Thanksgiving dinner at my grandma's.
It was requested that I bring my Brussels sprouts dish from last year.  I followed the same recipe but used pecans instead of walnuts. 

One of my favorite veggies!
Of course, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without an extensive spread of pies.  My cousin and aunt are expert bakers and always create the most amazing desserts.
We continued celebrating last night with Jay's family.  Since we had already had our share of traditional Thanksgiving food, Jay's sister made spaghetti complete with homemade vegan meatballs.  It was perfect after such a heavy dinner the night before.  We ended the night with some competitive ping-pong and board game playing.  Settlers of Catan is our favorite - it is really nerdy but always a good time.  
My mom and I did make it out for our annual Black Friday shopping adventure, although it was a little toned down compared with past years (especially last year's craziness that happened at Kohl's!).  We still had luck finding some good deals.  I got quite a few smaller gifts that I often leave until the last minute, so I was happy to have that accomplished. 

Not sure what else is on the agenda for the next two days.  I feel like I have a lot of catch-up to do after being sick.  I hope to pop back in with a squash recipe and maybe some Christmas decorations in the next few days.  

Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Things I'm Loving Lately {November Edition}

A few things I've been loving this fall!

1. Luna & Larry's Organic Coconut Bliss Ice Cream
The best non-dairy ice cream I have ever tried.  Soy free, dairy free, gluten free, and not too sugary.  This flavor was delicious, and I loved the real cacoa nibs scattered throughout.  Superfood bonus!

2. Diana's Bananas Banana Babies
Another dessert - I guess I have had a sweet tooth lately.  My grandpa introduced me to these last summer when Jay and I were in Florida.  I recently bought a box at our local Natural Grocers, and they are still as amazing as I remember.  I like that these treats are primarily made of fresh fruit dipped in just a little bit of high quality dark chocolate.  It may not be the healthiest thing you can eat, but it is a pretty good option as far as desserts go. 

3. Archer Farms Simmer Sauces
When I don't have much time to cook dinner, one of my favorite tricks is to doctor up a pre-made sauce with extra veggies and protein.  Target has a great selection of Indian and Thai inspired simmer sauces made from real ingredients and healthy spices. 
I added some garlic, ginger, broccoli, spinach, and simple roasted tofu to this Panang Ginger Curry sauce last night.  It was easy and delicious served on top of brown rice. 

4. Sofritas Organic Tofu at Chipotle
I am a regular at Chipotle.  Up until recently, I have always ordered the exact same veggie burrito bowl loaded with all the salsas and guacamole.  As much as I love my usual, I was really excited to see a new addition to the menu a couple weekends ago when I was in Dallas with my mom.  The "Sofritas" shredded organic tofu is braised with chipotle chilies, roasted poblanos, and spices.  My mom and I both agreed that it was so flavorful and tasted a lot like meat, only better!  I hope they are offering this at my local Chipotle, because I would definitely order it again. 

5. Target + TOMS
I love Target and I love TOMS, so I was really excited to see them combined.  All of the stuff is so cute, and for every gift you buy, they give shoes, a blanket, or a meal to someone in need.  I especially love the throws and this candle - it would make a great Christmas present!  ;)

Just a week until Thanksgiving!  Our Christmas cards have already been ordered, and I am looking forward to the official kick-off of the holiday season.  

See you soon!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Creamy Avocado Kale Pasta

My Bachelor watching group is a huge fan of this simple avocado cream pasta sauce recipe.  We've doctored it up all sorts of ways, including using basil instead of parsley, adding white beans, etc.  It has never failed us.

Seeing as there hasn't been a Bachelor season in a while, I was really missing this pasta.  (Not to mention seeing Zenie and Ashleigh on a weekly basis!)

I pulled out the old recipe the other night and put a bit of a new spin on it.  It turned out so creamy and delicious, I literally licked the plate (and the pan and the food processor).  Avocado + kale is the best combination.
Lemony Avocado Kale Pasta
Serves: 2
Total time: 20 minutes

1/2 box whole wheat spaghetti
1 lemon
1 avocado, halved and pitted
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch kale, rinsed and chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Plenty of salt and fresh-ground pepper

1. Bring salted water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add in your pasta and cook until al dente. 

2. While the water heats up, make your sauce by combining one clove of garlic, juice of 1/2 lemon, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, avocado, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a food processor. 

3.  As the pasta is cooking, heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add in 1 clove of minced garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Saute until fragrant. 

4. Add your kale and the juice of the other half of lemon.  Saute for a few more minutes, until kale is soft.
5. When pasta is done cooking, drain and rinse in a strainer.  Toss thoroughly with the avocado sauce and kale.  Garnish with additional pepper, fresh Parmesan, fresh basil, etc.
Note: this pasta is REALLY lemony.  If lemon isn't your thing, it's probably not for you.  Also, it would be great with some white beans or grilled chicken mixed in for added protein.  

Stay warm out there!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Green Pepper Lentil Soup

Hi there!  Hope you all had a great weekend.  I was out of town once again, this time in Dallas to cheer on Jay's volleyball team in the conference finals.  My mom and I drove down directly from work on Friday and had a great time hanging out in the area and supporting the Cyclones.  Jay's team made it all the way to the championship match and played so well against a much bigger school - it was incredibly exciting to watch!  
After getting home late Saturday night, Jay and I hosted a casual birthday brunch for his grandpa yesterday morning.  By the time dinner rolled around, we were both pretty exhausted and not in the mood for any heavy duty cooking.  I figured it would be the perfect night for a big, easy pot of soup, especially with frigid winter temperatures right around the corner.  

We had a surplus of green peppers, so I used them along with other ingredients I had on hand to put together a soup version of lentil stuffed (or in this case un-stuffed) green peppers.  It only took about 10 minutes to throw together, and it was delicious and and filling.  The rice and lentils provide complete protein and lots of bulk.  I actually had to return some of my second helping back to the pot because my eyes were so much bigger than my stomach (a rare occurrence around here).  I can't wait to take the leftovers to work this week to keep me warm through the polar vortex.   
Green Pepper Lentil Soup
(Inspired by a recipe originally spotted on Clean Eating Chelsey)
Serves: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes

1 tbsp. olive oil
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 green peppers, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dried lentils
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups fresh spinach
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Begin by heating the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Saute your red pepper flakes, onion, garlic, and green pepper for about five minutes (until soft).  Add your diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, brown rice, lentils, and additional spices.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you like your soup spicy, top with a squeeze of Sriracha before enjoying.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Spotlight on BroccoLeaf

There's a new vegetable hitting grocery store shelves, and I'm super excited about it.  It's called BroccoLeaf for obvious reasons - it's just the leaf part of a normal broccoli plant.  Obviously, these leaves are nothing new - they have been around for as long as people have been growing broccoli.  But only recently has it been discovered that they can be picked and eaten.

As you can imagine, BroccoLeaf is an amazing superfood.  It contains more calcium than skim milk, is an excellent source of Vitamins A and K, and contains more than 100% of the daily recommended level of Vitamin C.

I spotted BroccoLeaf at my local Natural Grocers last week.  I wasn't immediately sure what it was - it sort of resembled an enormous bunch of collard greens.   Once I realized what I had found, of course I had to take it home to give it a try.
It was so huge, it wouldn't even fit in the produce bag!  (A pretty good value at only $1.79)
Apparently BroccoLeaf works well for juicing and can even be eaten raw, but I chose to use mine to make this simple saute that was featured on the BroccoLeaf website.  It's pretty much the exact recipe I use to saute kale (minus the lemon juice), so I figured it would be a pretty safe bet.  I did add some mustard powder at the end to be sure that we were getting the most nutritional bang for our buck.
Even though we had a ton of BroccoLeaf for just myself and Jay, I decided to go ahead and cook the whole bunch.  Many greens reduce way down when you cook them, so I didn't want to risk not having enough.  As it turned out, the BroccoLeaf hardly shrank down at all, leaving us with a massive helping.  Good thing we love greens!

I really enjoyed the taste of the BroccoLeaf.  It wasn't anything crazy unusual, just a good solid green to add in to our rotation.  The taste was mild and not at all bitter.  In texture, it was much less wilty than spinach or kale - maybe more similar to swiss chard.

It was delicious served along side roasted tofu and quinoa, and topped with a little feta cheese.
You can bet I will be buying this green again!