Summer Vegetable Salad with Quinoa and Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

My oh my, I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since I put up my last recipe.  Between wrapping things up for graduation (I finish in 2 weeks!) and lying in pools my own sweat (ew) in my hot apartment, I’ve been seriously lacking in energy lately.  I tend to believe that there are few problems a good helping of nutrition can’t solve…does anyone have any good tips for breaking out of a low-energy slump?  If so, I’d love to hear them.

Because of the recent temperatures and my unfortunate lack of air-conditioning, I’ve been focusing on creating meals that require little, if any, cooking, baking, or boiling.  While this one does not completely fit that mold, it comes pretty close and the leftovers kept me happy for days.  I even ate a few servings for breakfast with a fried egg on top.

This recipe was inspired by a similar one from Whipped.  I changed the ingredients based on what I had in my kitchen and I omitted the mozzarella because…well, I was dealing with the discovery that I now have cellulite on my thighs.  I really recommend taking an extra few minutes to make the pickled cherry tomatoes.  They provide amazing little bursts of flavor and are easy to make.

Summer Vegetable Salad with Quinoa and Pickled Cherry Tomatoes
makes 8 servings
adapted from Whipped

Ingredients
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 1/4 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
- 1 cup diced zucchini (about 1/2 large)
- 1 ear corn, kernel removed
- 1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
- 2 handfuls spinach, roughly chopped
- 1 cup pickled tomatoes (see recipe below)
- 1 Tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- salt, to taste

Start by pickling the cherry tomatoes.  They will need at least an hour for the flavors to come together.

In a large bowl, toss vegetables together.  Drizzle with oil and vinegar and toss again.  Finish with a sprinkle of salt.

Pickled Cherry Tomatoes
adapted from Plate to Plate

Ingredients
- 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 3/4 cup water
- 4 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- a pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 garlic cloves, gently crushed
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Mix vinegar, water, salt, and sugar together until salt and sugar are dissolved. Mix the halved tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper flakes.  Pack gently into a glass jar and pour vinegar mixture over until covered.  Replace the lid, give it a few good shakes, and leave it at room temperature for 1-3 hours.

Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

* I shared this link with this week’s Fat Tuesday and Traditional Tuesday.

Smart Cookies (with protein!)

I go back and forth on the whole concept of protein powder.  Sure, it’s an easy add-in for the morning smoothie and it can help keep me satiated until lunch.  BUT, protein powders are expensive, often contain unnatural ingredients, and can taste like, well, butt.  So lately I’ve been choosing to avoid them and to rely on eggs, nuts, meats, and raw milk for my protein.  In the meantime, a very expensive bag of protein powder has been wasting away in my cupboard.

This is the Vanilla SunWarrior Warrior Blend protein.  I bought it after trying a free sample and I thought I was in love.  When my whole 2 pound bag came in the mail, though, I found that my tastebuds had done a complete switch.  I found it to be just tolerable and, a few weeks later, not even that.  By the time I was halfway through the bag, I hated the stuff.  And so we’ve been at an impasse, with me unable to either consume it or throw it away (I figure there’s a good $20 worth of product still in that bag!).  BTW, I’m not trying to point out SunWarrior as having a worse-than-average product.  Based on the online reviews, it seems that most people love it…just a matter of taste.

This long story is to tell you that  these cookies finally vindicated my purchase.  When baked into these hearty cookies, I find the Warrior Blend to be absolutely amazing.  It lends a nice, sweet vanilla flavor and plenty of healthy staying power.  Next time I make these, I may even increase the amount of protein and decrease the whole wheat flour, just to see what I end up with.  Use your favorite (or maybe least favorite) brand and whip these up for quick breakfasts or snacks.

Have you ever found a way to repurpose something that was languishing in your cupboards?

Smart Cookies
makes 12-15 large cookies
adapted from Blissful Bites

Ingredients:
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 1/4 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
- 2 Tbsp peanut butter
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup vanilla protein powder (I used Warrior Blend)
- 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 cup dried cherries
- 1/4 hazelnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F.  Beat oil, milk, peanut butter, honey, egg, and vanilla and almond extracts until smooth.  Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and protein.  Mix until thoroughly combined.  Fold in oats, cherries, and hazelnuts.

Form cookies with large scoops of dough and place them on a nonstick baking sheet.  Bake 12-15 minutes, until beginning to brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Tuna Nicoise Sandwiches

What do you get when you put classic nicoise salad ingredients between 2 slices of bread?  You get the perfect picnic takealong.

I was inspired by this sandwich over at Tartelette.  It was just the thing to bring for an afternoon cooling off by the river last weekend.  It was Jeremy’s birthday and we needed a way to beat the heat and get out of our ordinary routine.  We ended up with happy tastebuds and a very happy dog.

Chasing sticks never gets old for him.

I used some lovely homemade focaccia bread and quick-pickled onions in this recipe.  Use whatever bread you prefer, but I really recommend you give the onions a try.  They only take about 5 minutes to put together and they add a zesty tang and crunch.

I hope everyone is staying cool out there.  I’ve stationed myself in front of the fan for the afternoon.

Tuna Nicoise Sandwiches
makes 2
adapted from Tartelette

Ingredients
- 2 hard-boiled farm eggs, peeled and chopped
- 1 can tuna packed in olive oil, drained
- 6 olives, halved (I’m obsessed with castelvetrano olives)
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- several large basil leaves, torn into pieces
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tomato, sliced
- several slices quick-pickled onions
-
 bread of choice

In a large bowl, mix eggs, tuna, olives, garlic, basil, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Spread thickly between slices of bread, topped with tomato and onions.

I added this post to this week’s Melt in Your Mouth Monday.

Quick Pickled Onions

I was so excited when, at the grocery store last week, I noticed the first of this season’s walla walla onions.  For those who’ve never have them, walla walla onions are an incredibly sweet, ridiculously huge variety of onion grown in and around Walla Walla, Washington (yes, real place).  They have a short shelf life and are only available this time of year and so they are quite a treat.

I bought one without having any plans for it and proceeded to let it sit on my counter for a few days.  My favorite way to enjoy walla wallas is to grill them and put them on a burger.  But it has been way to HOT to grill, if you can believe it, and I began to worry that this precious onion would go to waste.  That’s when I got the idea to pickle it.  While red onions are usually the ones I see turned into pickles (so good on sandwiches, salad, and tacos!), I decided that the walla walla would be a perfect variation.  And I was right.

Quick Pickled Onions
adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients
- 1 onion, thinly sliced (walla walla or red would work well)
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt

In a large jar, mix vinegar, water, sugar, and salt until dissolved.  Add onion to the jar, place the lid on top and shake until the onion has been coated.  Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

* I added this post to this week’s Fresh Bites Friday and Thriving on Thursday.

And the winner is… (plus a smoothie)

Today I’m excited to announce the winner of my first-ever giveaway.  For those who missed it, it was sponsored by the site/app Slimkicker and they wanted your ideas about fun and creative fitness challenges that their users can implement in daily life.  We got some great responses and Slimkicker has chosen Camila’s challenge to sponsor on their site.  Camila’s response was “to slow down while you exercise. Lots of people just rush thru their workout without actually focusing and concentrating on the movements.”  Congratulations, Camila, you’ve won the Ozeri professional kitchen scale!  You can email team@slimkicker.com to claim your prize!

And after sweating it out at the gym (or in your 100+ degree apartment) you can cool yourself off with this blueberry-cucumber smoothie.  Seriously, so necessary on days like today.

Help!  What’s your favorite way to cool off on a hot summer day?

Blueberry-Cucumber Smoothie
serves 1

Ingredients
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 1 medium cucumber, sliced
- 1 cup spinach (optional)
- 1 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp matcha powder (optional)
- 1/2 cup water

Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth.  Drink cold.

* I shared this post with this week’s Real Food Wednesday, Gluten-Free WednesdaySlightly Indulgent TuesdayFat Tuesday and Monday Mania.

Cherry Tomato Focaccia

Bread-making is something of a tradition in my family.  My grandma, Alice, was famous in her Minnesota town for the making and sharing her perfect loaves of sandwich bread.  We would often spend part of our summer vacations at her lake cabin catching frogs, wakeboarding behind my uncle’s speedboat, and helping Alice make bread.  I still remember how satisfying it was to watch the dough slowly rise and then to punch it back down.  When my grandma passed away, each of the grandchildren were allowed to choose one item from her house (the same one my mom grew up in) to remember her by.  I took the enormous, battered bread pan.

My mom started her own tradition of making bread as a way to remember grandma Alice and she has become quite accomplished at it.  I gave it a few tries in my first post-college kitchens without much success.  I would have trouble getting the dough to rise, it would come out too dry, or after a day of work and care I would burn it.  I decided that perhaps I just wasn’t a baker and gave up for a while.  And then I made this focaccia.

Ok, so I burned it just a little but otherwise it was amazing.  I couldn’t believe that bread with such flavor and such a dense, springy crumb had come out of my kitchen.  On top of that, it was easy!  You make it over two days, which helped me sidestep the problem of bread-making becoming an all day project.  You just put the dough together, set it in the fridge, and forget about it until you have time to bake it the next day.

Who knows, maybe I’ll be tackling (and mastering) grandma Alice’s bread recipe next!

Cherry Tomato Focaccia
makes 1 large loaf
recipe adapted from the August issue of Vegetarian Times

Bread:
- 3 1/2 cups high-gluten bread flour, plus more for kneading
- 1 tsp instant yeast (you will need water and sugar to activate it)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for the bowl and the pan

Topping:
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp thyme, chopped
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 tsp coarse salt

On the first day, activate yeast according to package directions.  Place flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl and mix.  Add activated yeast, olive oil and 1 cup of water.  Use your hands to mix together until a soft, shaggy dough forms.  It should be quite soft and sticky, but still knead-able.  Add a little more flour if it seems too sticky.  Knead gently for a couple of minutes and then pour some olive oil over the dough so that it does not stick to the bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap or a cloth and set in the refrigerator to rise overnight.

The next day, take the dough out a few hours before you plan to bake it so it can reach room temperature.  Preheat the oven to 450 F.  Prepare a large baking sheet with parchment paper and gently stretch the dough into a large rectangle.  Let it rest for about 10 minutes and stretch a little bit more, dimple-ing the top with your fingers.  Drizzle 2 Tbsp olive oil over the top, sprinkle with salt, and press cherry tomatoes, sliced side up, into the dough.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

* I shared this post with this week’s Foodie FridayMelt In Your Mouth Monday, Mix it Up Monday, and My Meatless Monday.

Totally Addictive Tali Sauce

What you see here is the last serving of the condiment that saved my week.  If you don’t live in Portland, OR you may never have heard of Tali sauce.  This creamy, lemony, garlicky wonder was one of the first culinary delights I fell in love when when I moved to this city 5 years ago.  It’s served at The Whole Bowl, a downtown food cart, and it has the amazing ability to turn a plain ol’ bowl of rice and beans into something extraordinary.  Of course, they don’t just give their recipe away, but I managed to find a good approximation at The Improbable Farmer blog.

Part of the amazing flavor comes from nutritional yeast, which I once heard described as catnip for vegans.  I thought that was hilariously accurate.  Moving on.

I’ve been enjoying this with brown rice, pinto beans, and avocado.  It’s also good with a chicken breast and steamed broccoli.  And I’m about to sauté some zucchini to eat with the last of it.  The point is that you can let your imagination run wild.  May your lunch never taste boring again.

Tali Sauce
adapted from The Improbable Farmer

Ingredients:
- 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup cooked pinto (or garbanzo) beans
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup lemon juice

Place all ingredients in the blender.  Blend on high for a few minutes until smooth.  Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

* I shared this post with this week’s Fresh Bites FridayWellness WeekendSimple Lives Thursday and Pennywise Platter.

Fresh Blueberries with Honey-Ricotta Cream

Today I am going to share the simplest, dreamiest summer dessert with you.  It’s got a short ingredients list, won’t heat up your kitchen, and will take you all of 5 minutes to put together.  Sound good?

Behold: incredibly smooth honey-ricotta cream draped over seasonal blueberries.  You may use any other type of fruit that strikes your fancy.  A mix of berries or peaches would be perfect.  You can also dress it up in a variety of ways.  Consider adding lemon zest or vanilla paste to the ricotta.  Or sprinkle a few lavender flowers over your dessert bowls.  Personally, I’ve been enjoying as is for a cooling summer treat.

Fresh Blueberries with Honey-Ricotta Cream
makes 8 servings
adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients
- 16 oz ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1/4 cup raw honey
- 3 cups fresh blueberries

Place ricotta, sour cream, and honey in the blender.  Blend until smooth and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  This can be made up to 2 days ahead of time.

Place a few tablespoons of the cream in the bottom of your dessert bowls.  Top with a generous handful of blueberries and another dollop of cream.  Serve while still cold.

I shared this post with this week’s Full Plate ThursdayMonday ManiaMelt in Your Mouth MondayMy Meatless Monday and Mix it Up Monday.

Harissa Chickpeas with Spinach and a *Giveaway*!

Ah, resolutions.  They are so easy to make and so hard to keep.  There are the annual New Year’s Resolutions we all make and break.  There’s the inevitable swimsuit season countdown.  And there are the (in some cases daily) promises that this will be the LAST TIME I gorge on Oreo cookies for dessert after my greasy grilled cheese dinner.  Obviously I say none of this from experience.  Obviously.

Regardless of what your health/fitness goals are, it’s hard to make changes last.  Whether it’s cutting down on soda or quitting smoking, it’s always easier to make resolutions than to keep them.   And long-term habits are what ultimately create health or illness.  Which is why I’m sharing a GIVEAWAY today from the health and fitness app/website Slimkicker.  SlimKicker is a website/app that turns your health and diet challenges into a game by giving you the tools to track your progress, reward yourself, and even compete with friends.

To win the giveaway, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post with a fun and creative health, diet, or fitness challenge.  Slimkicker will pick will pick their favorite entry, add it as a challenge to their site, and give you an Ozeri Professional Kitchen Scale.  I’m seriously jealous of excited for whoever wins this.  (This giveaway is only open to residents of the U.S. and Canada.)

source

I will be accepting entries until July 31st and then we’ll be contacting the winner.

I was thinking about what kind of challenge I would create for myself and decided it would definitely be to cook dinner at home more often.  For someone who writes a cooking blog, I do a poor job of feeding myself and my loved ones at the end of a busy day.  Even the simplest dinners cooked at home would save me tons of money and would be much healthier than take-out or (ahem) bar food.  So in honor of today’s giveaway, I’m sharing these Harissa Chickpeas with Spinach.  Fast, healthy, and affordable.  I guess there’s nothing too challenging about that!

Harissa Chickpeas with Spinach
serves 2
from Not Without Salt

Note: You can find harissa paste in many well-stocked grocery stores or online.

Ingredients
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (= 15oz can)
- 1 tsp harissa paste (add more for more spice)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
- 2 cups fresh baby spinach
- generous scoop plain greek yogurt

1. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and sauté about 2 minutes, until softened.  Add harissa paste and allow to cook 2 minutes more.

2. Add chickpeas and sauté until warm and softened, about 5 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and stir in mint, spinach, and olive oil.

3. Allow the residual heat to soften the spinach and divide into 2 bowls.  Top each bowl with a scoop of greek yogurt and serve with a slice of crusty bread, if you like.

* I shared this post with this week’s Fresh Bites Friday and Fight Back Friday.

Paleo Beef Liver Meatball and Cabbage Soup

Yup, I said it.  “Cabbage” and “liver” in the same recipe title.  But trust me, if I didn’t find it to be 100% delicious, I would not be sharing it with you.  I’ve been intrigued by the amazing health benefits of grass-fed liver for a while now, but I wasn’t really sure of how to introduce the topic on this site.  Liver is not something that most people tend to get excited about and so in order to sell it, I knew I’d have to find an incredible way to prepare it.  I’ve tried the classic liver and onions, a chopped liver sandwich, and even a curried version (which was actually pretty good but I forgot to write down my recipe).  This is the first that I feel I can confidently promise you will love.  Now, on to a discussion of the health benefits.

Beef liver is an extremely nutrient dense food, providing an abundance of vitamin A, B vitamins, copper, zinc, iron and folate.  These vitamins are essential for proper functioning of the immune system, combatting fatigue, promoting healthy metabolism, and protecting against oxidative stress.  On top of all that, it is very high in protein.  I find that when I eat liver, it takes hours for me to feel hungry again.  Which is unusual for a snack-monster like me  :)

The nice thing about this recipe is that there are many layers of flavor that make the liver much less noticeable.  There is a savory, salty broth made with a parmesan rind, lots of hearty vegetables, and the meatballs which contain ground beef, liver, and spices.  You can also adjust the amount of liver according to your taste.  Try just 1/4 pound if you’re not sure about the stuff or go all the way to 3/4 pound if you’re a liver-eating pro.

Do you include liver in your diet?  If so, what are your favorite ways to prepare it?

Beef Liver Meatball and Cabbage Soup
makes 12 servings

Ingredients
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 3 large carrots, sliced lengthwise and cut into 1/4″ pieces
- 4 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 zucchini, quartered and chopped into 1/2″ pieces
- 1 large head of cabbage, shredded (about 8 cups)
- 8 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock
- 1 parmesan rind
- salt, to taste

- 1 lb ground beef (grass-fed, if possible)
- 2/3 lb beef liver (use more or less, to taste)
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbsp ground flax
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp dried oregano

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add carrots and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes.  Add zucchini and sauté another 5 minutes, until vegetables are starting to soften.  Add cabbage and allow to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

2. Add broth or stock and parmesan rind.  Bring to a simmer and prepare meatballs.

3. Place liver in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Place in a large bowl with ground beef, egg, flax, salt, paprika, and oregano.  Mix ingredients until uniformly distributed.  In a large sauté pan, heat a little more olive oil.  Drop beef mixture by tablespoonfuls into the pan and cook for about 1 minute on each side, until lightly browned.  They do not have to be cooked all the way through as they will continue cooking in the stock pot with the soup.

4. Add meatballs to the soup and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.  Add salt to taste.  Serve hot.

* I shared this post with this week’s Whole Foods WednesdayReal Food WednesdayAllergy Free Wednesday, Gluten-Free WednesdayFrugal Days, Sustainable WaysHearth and Soul HopFat Tuesday and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.