12.16.2013

Post-Workout (Hangover) Smoothie

 
It’s no secret that eating and drinking after a workout (or a night out) is important. It not only replaces lost fluids and brings your blood sugar levels back up, it actually shortens your recovery time if done within 30 minutes of working out.* That’s why I try to get a smoothie in after a gym session.
My go-to recipe is just banana, cucumber and lemon with a few berries for a splash of color and antioxidants. It gives your body fluid and a little boost of potassium and magnesium to prevent muscle cramping, helps replace muscle glycogen and neutralizes the acid that forms in your body from exercise (and alcohol!!). Plus a tough workout (or night drinking) can weaken your immune system. The vitamin C from the fruit and veg helps boost your defenses.
This smoothie is very light intentionally. If you want to thicken it up add less liquid. For a little more protein (the optimal post-work ratio of carbs to protein is about 4:1), feel free to blend in some soaked chia seeds or quality protein powders. If you want a stronger alkalizing effect, leave out the berries and add a few leaves of romaine lettuce in. I promise you won't even taste them!
Recap of the benefits:
  • Hydration: After sweating it out at the gym or a late night out, you need to replace those fluids! The fruits and veg really make the water more enjoyable to drink.
  • Faster recovery: The carbs help stimulate insulin production which aids in replacing muscle glycogen.
  • Acid neutralization: Working out or drinking alcohol causes your body to form acid. To neutralize this acid, your body uses valuable minerals, like zinc, potassium, iron and calcium. Cucumbers, bananas and lemons (yes, even though they are acidic) have an alkalizing effect on your body. This way you don’t lose valuable minerals!
  • Blood sugar boost: After working out or drinking, your blood sugar is likely on the floor. Having easily digestable carbs helps bring it back to a healthy level and ease a headache.
  • Immune system boost: Vitamin C!
  • Antioxidants: The antioxidants from the fruit (especially the berries!) help fight the oxidation process that can cause damage to cells in your body.
  • Flushout toxins: The lemon also stimulates your liver to flush out toxins, which is extra important after drinking!
  • Extra potassium and magnesium: Help prevent muscle cramping.
* Read more here.



12.06.2013

Pumpkin Granola

 
 
I can’t help myself… I just keep buying pumpkins. It’s a strange problem to have, but, all things considered, it could be worse. I’m not racking up credit card debt and I end up with delicious pumpkin pancakes, soups, breads, cakes, muffins …and now granola!
 
While someone in my house is starting to get sick of pumpkin, I am NOT!  In fact, the pumpkin pie I ate over Thanksgiving left me wanting to bring spiced pumpkin into my everyday life. So, I decided to use my cherry-nut granola recipe as a base for some crunchy pumpkin granola. This time around I’ve also added more fiber and chia seeds!
 
You can read up on all the great benefits of oats in my last post, which include regulating blood sugar, lower cholesterol and supporting a healthy heart. The almonds, walnuts and chia seeds also give you protein and healthy fats that boost brain function!


12.02.2013

Raspberry-Walnut Oatmeal with Sautéed Bananas

To celebrate the first of Advent, I went on an obstacle trail run outside of Frankfurt this Sunday. I know, it's not everyone's idea of a good time. When you live in the city and work at a desk all week, though, there is nothing better than some fresh air and exercise to remind you you're alive! Two loops on a 2.6-km trail with nine stations. Box jumps, pull ups, push ups, sit ups, dips plus a few other fun ones. Needless to say, I needed a breakfast that was going to (help me) go the distance.

Oatmeal was the clear choice. It's provides easily accessible energy for your body, but is filled with fiber that keeps you full and allows for the slow release of energy. My absolute favorite way to eat oatmeal is with raspberries, a pinch of cinnamon, sauteed banana and toasted walnuts. Yummm. There is just something so comforting about sitting down to a warm breakfast when it's cold outside. Cooking the bananas makes them even sweeter so you can skip (or go lighter) on the brown sugar or honey. 

What to love:
  • Fiber: Oatmeal contains a great mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber. The soluble fiber also known as beta-glucan helps lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Plus it keeps you full!
  • Beta-glucan also helps boost your immune system’s response to bacterial infection by activating your white blood cells.
  • Low glycemic load: Yes, oats have carbs, but the soluble fiber is made up of polysaccharides (long chains of glucose) that are harder to breakdown. This allows for the slow release of energy into your blood stream. No blood sugar spikes.
  • Oats also contain the antioxidant avenanthramidethatis believed to have anti-flammatory effects. It prevents free radicals from damaging LDL (the bad) cholesterol, thus reducing risk of heart disease.
  • Protein: 8.5 grams per 2/3-cup serving, which helps your body build strong muscles.
  • Good source of iron, which is required for the production of red blood cells and to the transport of oxygen throughout the body.
Toppings
  • Bananas: Good source of potassium and vitamin C.
  • Raspberries: Filled with vitamin C and fiber.
  • Walnuts: Contains protein, omega-3s (help reduce plaque formation, reduce blood pressure and inflammation, support brain function, control appetite and improve mood) and more antioxidants per serving than blueberries.
*Click for nutritional data

11.27.2013

Turkey Tortilla Soup



So I’m sure everyone back home is doing last-minute shopping for their Thanksgiving meal Thursday. The turkey is probably defrosting and brining as I type this. Here in Germany, though, Thanksgiving came early. Actually, it came early and twice. Two weeks ago, I celebrated potluck-style with some of my American colleagues and then last Saturday, I hosted a sit-down Thanksgiving dinner. Both of which were a huge success and left me looking to get into my most comfortable pj pants asap.

When all the guests went home, though, I discovered I still had about half a turkey on my hands. Turkey sandwiches are delicious, but I can only eat so many. Soup, though, that is where it's at. Especially now that it’s freezing outside. To spice things up, I decide to do a Mexican inspired soup instead of the standard turkey noodle. 


The recipe is so fast and so easy. It will be on the table in 30 minutes. Plus, it is so, so, so much better than any canned soup. The chipotle chili in adobe sauce really adds a smokey kick of flavor. Squeeze some lime on before serving and enjoy!

What to love:



· Low fat: Turkey is low in fat and this recipe does not add much more.

· Low carb: Unlike many soups, this one has no pasta or potatoes in it. Just a sprinkling of sliced, toasted corn tortillas.
· High protein: Even without the extra carbs, one serving of this will keep you full for hours and help build muscles thanks to the meat and beans.
· High fiber: The beans and veggies help regulate blood sugar levels, keep you full and reduce cholesterol.
· Decent dose of Vitamin C from the tomatoes and other veggies.


11.20.2013

Breakfast-friendly Pumpkin Bread



One of my favorite things to do is put a healthy spin on rich recipes. Sure, sometimes you want a decadent cake to serve guests or bring to a potluck. Other times you just want a delicious treat that is slightly more wholesome. One you could say... also eat for breakfast and not feel bad about. One that is a little bit nicer to your body and ehrm waistline.

After taking one look at this recipe for iced pumpkin coffee cake from Sally's Baking Addiction, I was sold. Look at those pictures! Pumpkin anything, yes please. But I didn’t really have an occasion for such a cake. And if I had that at home, all to myself, well I’d surely eat myself sick. So I decided to give her recipe a healthier spin.
To help you do the same to almost any recipe for baked goods (cookies excluded), I’ve compiled a list of my tips and tricks. You can use one or all of them depending on how much you want to clean up the recipe. Baking is a science, but you can still play around a little!
Top tips for healthier baking:
1. Cut the fat: Fat is in recipes for moisture. You can typically replace up to half of the fat with either applesauce or plain, low-fat Greek or regular yogurt without sacrificing moisture or structural integrity. The only thing to remember is that these baked goods will not hold moisture as well as over longer periods of time so consume your treats within two days for the best flavor.
2. Replace bad fat with good fat: Most baking recipes call for butter or vegetable oil. This can generally be replaced with melted coconut oil. Yes, it containes mostly saturated fat, but not all saturated fat is created equally. The lauric acid in coconut oil is a medium-chain fatty acid unlike the longer-chain ones found in meat and has a neutral affect on heart health. Some research suggests that coconut oil can even improve cholesterol by revving up enzymes that breakdown fats. Read more here.
3. Reduce the sugar: Sugar is there to sweeten things up. You can often cut it back by 1/3 without noticing a big difference. This cuts out empty calories and lessens the ups and downs you get from rising and dropping blood sugar levels.
4. Go a little heavier on the spices: Worried about the recipe turning out bland? Don’t be. Adding spices is a great way to add flavor without adding extra calories. They often have benefits of their own. For instance, studies show that cinnamon may reduce inflammation, have antioxidant effects, and fight bacteria.
5. Replace some of the AP flour with (white) whole wheat: This flour has the goodness of whole wheat (added fiber and nutrients) but bakes more like AP flour. Because whole wheat flour is denser and heavier, one cup of AP flour is equal to about 3/4 cup of whole wheat. Sometimes you also have to add about ¼ more of the liquid you are working with. Learn how to adapt your recipe accordingly here.
6. Add more of the healthy stuff: Making banana bread? Add more bananas. A pumpkin coffee cake? More pumpkin. If the recipe calls for nuts or oats, add more of them. Keep in mind though that when adding wet ingredients, such as pumpkin, you may want to add more dry or cut down slightly on another wet ingredient. The opposite is true for dry. Also keep in mind that the heavier the extra ingredients are, the more leavenging agents you will need.


11.13.2013

Gramy's Kale Soup

I think it is safe to say that grandmas always have the best recipes. Ones that make you feel all warm and cozy inside. So much love has gone into making and perfecting them over the years. It's not just sustenance, it’s soul food.

This hearty kale and sausage soup from my Gramy (yes, she spells it with one "m") is no exception. She made it while visiting us for Christmas one year and now it’s a staple in my repertoire of fall and winter recipes! It is JUST what you need to boost your body’s immune system when seasons are changing and people at your office are coming down with colds. Plus, knowing that a homemade soup is waiting for you after a long day at work warms up your spirits a little too.

What to love:

This recipe is great for anyone looking for something delicious that will boost their immune system, lower cholesterol and decrease inflammation. It is low in saturated fat and high in fiber as well as vitamins and minerals. Click the food names for nutritional data.

  • Let’s start out with kale, the cholesterol-lowering, cancer-fighting superfood. It is a nutritional powerhouse. It is packed, I mean PACKED with the antioxidant vitamins A, C and K that boost your immune system and promote good vision, strong bones and healthy skin. The lutein and zeaxanthin promote eye health. It is strongly anti-inflammitory, which means it improves a whole range of health issues, including heart disease, arthritis, chronic pain and cancer. (Read more about the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet here. For a great summary of the benefits of kale read more at WebMD).
  • The tomatoes are another good source of vitamin C. One cup has about 34% of your daily recommended value. Did I mention that Vitamin C is something your body does not store. You have to replenish it each day!
  • The kidney beans are a great source of fiber and iron. Because you are getting Vitamin C at the same time, you also absorb the iron better. They help regulate blood sugar, keep you satisfied and increase the amount of nutrients you absorb from your food, because they slow digestion.
  • With all this low-carb stuff, potatoes sometimes get a bad reputation, but they are actually  a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C and B6, especially if you eat the skin. Including potatoes instead of noodles in a soup is a great way to cut down on processed carbs.

11.04.2013

10-Minute Tex-Mex Tortilla Pizza



Now this is my kinda fast food. A crisp tortilla topped with salsa verde, black beans, melted pepper jack, sweet red onions and some smoky spices! So much flavor and so few calories compared with your standard slice of pie.

Another brilliant recipe passed onto me by my sister. Gotta give it to her, she knows her stuff when it comes to Mexican food! 

It is my new, go-to savoy snack. It satisfies my craving for Mexican food and pizza in one fell swoop. Does it get any better? I cannot wait to serve it up at girls’ wine night. Not to mention, it makes a great dinner or lunch when paired with a salad. Enjoy!!

What to love about this meal (beside how delicious, cheap and fast it is!): 
  • Healthy omega-3s from the avocado help your heart and brain.
  • Protein and cholesterol-lowering fiber from the beans help regulate blood sugar, keep you full and build strong muscles!  
  • Red onions have some vitamin C and when consumed raw help fight cancer. They are anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and antiviral. (Read more about the benefits of onions here!)
  • Cayenne pepper helps stimulate your circulatory system, lower cholestrol and prevent heart disease. (Read more here!)

10.28.2013

Veggie Chili Con Carne

OK, now that my health post is out of the way, I can tell you about this chili! Fall is finally here and the crisp air makes me want to sit down to a bowl of something warm that sticks to my ribs. Nothing fits the bill better than chili. 

Now there is meat in here, but anyone who is from Texas probably won’t count this as chili. I not only added beans, but veggies too. Since chili is generally a no-fuss, one-bowl meal, I wanted to make sure I was getting some other than a protein and fiber. Adding zucchini, bell pepper, onion and corn not only lighten up the meal and give your some more vitamins and minerals, they really make each bite more succulent and delicious.

Adding a tiny bit of unsweetened cocoa powder really balances out the spice and helps all the flavors meld together!
What you are getting:
Beef – Besides the obvious protein, I opt for beef instead of turkey, because red meat is the best source of iron. The iron helps your body transport oxygen, which is critical for your nervous system and cell functional throughout your entire body. Iron deficiency can leave you feeling tired, looking pale and bruising easily. And after all the blood tests I did, my iron levels were borderline anemic.
Beans – Also a great source of protein, but they are also packed with fiber that helps you stay full longer, regular your blood sugar and absorb more nutrients from your food since your body takes longer to digest it! (Nutrition Data)
Onion – While uncooked onions help kill bacteria, cooked onions still have a good amount of vitamin C and B6. (Nutrition Data)
ZucchiniLow in calories, these veggies are a good source of Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6 and a very good source of fiber, Vitamin A, C and K as well as Folate, Megnesium and Potassium. (Nutrition Data)
Bell pepper – They are also a good source of fiber, Thiamin, Folate, Potassium and Copper, and a very good source of Vitamin A, C (1 cup =385% DV; take that oranges!), E and B6 as well as Manganese. (Nutrition Data)
So eat up! And stay warm and healthy!

10.27.2013

Why I've Been Gone: Hospital Stay

Above is the sad, sad food I was given to eat while at the hospital.
How can anyone recover eating this? Ketchup covered noodles with a side of two desserts??!


Hospital Stay

So, while I would really like to talk about this delicious chili recipe I am about to post, I feel like I owe anyone who might follow this blog an explanation for my extended break from blogging. About a month and a half ago, I came down with what I thought was the world's worst migraine. Light hurt, sound hurt, smells hurt. Moving in any way hurt.
After laying in the dark and taking extra-strength migraine medicine did nothing, I started to worry. My head, neck and back were only getting worse. Inescapably pain with no end in sight. So I did the only thing a reasonable person would do: I consulted the trusty Internet to find out how to proceed. And low and behold, I had almost all the symptoms for meningitis – minus the fever. When my temperature suddenly skyrocketed to about 103 F, I realized I needed immediate medical attention and went to the hospital.
One spinal tap later, my suspicious were confirmed. I was hooked up to IVs day in and day out for about a week and spent another threeish weeks at home recovering.
I am now back at work and, for the most part, I am living life as I did before, but I was lucky in that I got medical assistance early on. Now for my public-service announcement: GET TO THE HOSPITAL IMMEDIATELY if you have the symptoms listed here. It is a medical emergency.
If my time in the hospital did anything, it was reaffirm my belief that without our health we have nothing. I am more interested in quality of life than quantity. Sure, we now have pills and special operations and treatments that can stretch lifeout, but what good is it if we can barely move and feel terrible.
And one of the best preventative medicines we have is a healthy, balanced diet. I have missed cooking and blogging and am excited to be back again, sharing recipes!

9.02.2013

Tropical Green Smoothie

 
So for about the last month, I’ve been incorporating green smoothies into my morning routine. Not only are they actually absolutely delicious, they make you feel amazing! I can say without a doubt that my skin has never looked better. My energy levels are sky high in the mornings (much to the dismay and confusion of some of my coworker’s).

Now, those of your already on board with green smoothies, get excited! This recipe is a tropical take on how to get your greens in a glass. But I know there are some of you for whom the very idea of downing a green drink first thing in the morning has your stomach turning and face squinched in disgust. All I can say is, give it a try!  Look at the pros and cons: What’s the worst that could happen? You absolutely hate it and pour it down the drain. Bummer, but that’s maybe two bucks wasted. The best? You find yourself actually enjoying something that is FANTASTIC for you! You feel amazing, your skin glows and you have tons of energy. At least that was my thinking when I first tried them out.
I got hooked after watching Kimberly Snyder make her Glowing Green Smoothie (YouTube link here). One look at her shiny hair and radiant skin and you want to be doing whatever it is she is doing. Clearly it is working!
_____________________________________________________________________________
A breakdown of the benefits
Spinach and romaine lettuce – The list is long my friends. It’s high in fiber, vitamin K and A, rich in cancer-fighting antioxidants (like lutein) that neutralize free radicals; it’s anti-inflammatory and it helps regulate blood sugar and strengthen bones. And the list goes on. Click here for more.

Avocado– It’s not only creamy and delicious, it’s a super food! Along with omega 3’s that boost brain function and cardiovascular health, they are a great source of potassium (more than twice as much as a banana!), vitamin C, B-vitamins and folic acid. Their fiber keeps you full, helps you absorb more nutrients while digesting.

Lime juice – Helps your liver flush out toxins, gets your digestive system moving (diuretic) and gives you a dose of vitamin C.

Kiwi – This little sucker has more vitamin C than an orange! Helps strengthen your immune system, promotes cell repair (better skin), and helps us deal with stress better!

Banana – A dose of potassium and B-vitamins! To keep your energy up and muscles moving.

Mango – Contains cancer-fighting antioxidants like quercetin, isoquercitrin, astragalin, fisetin, gallic acid and methylgallat. High in fiber. A good source of potassium, vitamin-B6, and vitamin A, C and E.

Water – Hydration. You just spent 7-8 hours not drinking anything. Give your body some liquids!
_____________________________________________________________________________

Smoothie tips:
· On a budget? Buy frozen spinach! So, so much cheaper and it keep for ages.
· New to green smoothies? Start with more fruit and less greens. Slowly add more. Like many good things in life (beer, wine), you may find it’s an acquired taste. But one totally WORTH acquiring!
· Peel and freeze your bananas for an even creamier smoothie
· Still too grassy? Citrus cuts that flavor. Add more lime or lemon juice and fresh orange, grapefruit or tangerines to help balance the taste.
· Still need the kick that coffee gives you? Try using chilled green tea, which will give you some
   caffeine with a ton of antioxidants.

8.26.2013

Mexican Pizza



 
Smokey spiced meat and black beans covered in sweet red onions and melted cheddar cheese. To top it off, a homemade salsa and slices of creamy avocado.
So cilantro was on sale and I, not being one to pass up a bargain, decided that I needed to purchase unreasonable amounts of the herb. The result: I ended up having Mexican food four out of seven days last week. Am I sick of it yet? NOPE! I did my standard chicken enchiladas, but decided to get creative come Friday with some fusion food! Pizza meet burrito. So, so good.
Now, this is not one of my lightest meals. There is bread, cheese and ground beef involved here, but I don’t feel guilty in the least. Why? Because its actually pretty good for you. Beside the fresh tomato salsa you pile on every slice, which gives you some vitamin A and C, the avocado has health omega 3’s to boost heart health and brain function. Adding herbs like cilantro helps pull toxic heavy metals out of your body and the lime juice helps the liver flush out toxins. Plus, there is fiber from the beans and the protein I use is lean ground beef. Ground turkey is another great alternative or you could do shredded chicken.
If you are really looking to cut down on calories and carbs, simply replace the standard crust with my cauliflower crust recipe. Since we are piling on the toppings this time, I’d recommend cutting out or back on the tomato sauce to keep the crust slightly more firm.

8.15.2013

Banana Nut Breakfast Bars



I’m sooo excited! I just can’t hidee it!! WWeeee!! My very first energy bar! Being one of those people who is always hungry and on the go, I’ve always been a fan of bars, but this is the first time I tried making them myself.

The idea hit me while I was home in the United States frequenting my beloved Trader Joes. That grocery store is my happy place. I could go on and on about the smell of freshly ground coffee in the air, the delicious samples, the wine and cheese tastings they do in the afternoons, and tasty treats they sell, like dark-chocolate-covered power berries and triple-ginger ginger snaps, but I’ll try to hold myself back here. What I really wanted to get at is their power bar aisle. That’s right. They basically have an aisle dedicated to energy and power bars: Cliff bars, Mojo bars, Builder bars, Balance bars, Luna bars, Think Thin bars. So many choices that your head is basically spinning.
Energy bars don’t seem to be a “thing” in Germany, though. Sure, they have sugary granola bars, you know, the kind that are essentially dipped in chocolate or yogurt. But they just don't fit the bill. They are mostly empty calories, simple carbs and sugar will just spike my blood sugar and leave me craving even more sweets about 20 minutes down the road. I wanted something that would actually stick to my ribs, keep me going and provide my body with nutrients. Plus, there is just some satisfaction that comes with actually knowing what you are eating and getting to select the ingredients yourself.
After digging around the internet for recipes and coming up with nothing, I just decided the best approach was some good ol’ trial-and-error baking. Much to my surprise, the first batch came out great! And they are oh-so good for you. I could not be happier!
What you get:
  • Fiber: From the bran, oats and whole wheat flour
  • Protein: From the assortment of nuts and seeds, oats and eggs
  • Omega 3’s: From the nuts, seeds and flax seed
  • Antioxidants: From the walnuts and almonds
  • Vitamins & Minerals: Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Manganese, Thiamin
Health benefits:
Helps build muscle, regulate blood sugar and energy levels, lower bad cholesterol, maintain a healthy circulatory system and heart, stimulate brain function, help protect and repair the body from toxins that cause diseases, fight aging and improve the health of skin and hair.

Each bar is about 180 calories with 6 grams of protein and almost 6 grams of fiber.

8.13.2013

Garden Pesto Couscous













































Fresh summer flavors!: Juicy veggies, salty feta cheese, earthy pesto and a hint of lemon!

This is the kind meal everyone needs in their recipe collection. The kind you can throw together and have on the table in under 20 minutes. And I have to admit, I was almost unreasonably pleased with myself after I finished making this. I was so in love with my dinner, in fact, that I decided to go for seconds (read thirds) instead of dessert. That’s just unheard of.

Now until last week, I had eaten couscous at just about every potluck I went to, but never dared to cook it myself. Now don’t get me wrong, I love it, but somehow couscous just never ended up on my grocery list. That is, until now! And O.M.G., what have I been doing with my LIFE!? This stuff is amazing. Unlike pasta, there is no pot of water that keeps boiling over, you don’t have to intermittently fish for a piece to check if its done and there is no draining off the water in the end. You just pour hot water over it, pop a top on it and in less than 10 minutes it is done. One stir and its fluffy, glorious and read to be seasoned up.
I added lightly sautéed tomatoes and zucchini. My very FIRST homegrown zucchini – a big accomplishment for a girl who hates to be near bugs and lives in a place where it seems to constantly rain. While the veggies are low in calories, they provide your body with vitamin A and C as well as potassium. To make the dish more of a meal instead of a side, I added chickpeas, which boost the fiber and protein content of the dish and in turn keep you full longer and maintain your blood sugar levels.

8.05.2013

Green Ice Tea Detox

A brief history of my relationship with green tea


Green tea and I didn’t use to be friends – I found it to be so, so bitter. But everywhere I looked someone was gushing about its incredible health benefits: It’s packed with important antioxidants. It has cancer- and heart-disease-fighting properties. It can help burn fat while lowering bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol. It improves artery function and can help prevent diabetes and stroke. And researchers seem to agree (Harvard Health Publications, WebMD).
If I could enjoy even half of these benefits, I wanted to be on board. So I’d try time and time again to spark a lasting, loving relationship with green tea. I thought maybe I just had to get accustomed to the flavor. You know like when you have your first sip of coffee or beer and feel compelled to spew it back out. Then five years down the road, you find yourself laughing at your former, naive self and wondering how you could ever have disliked beer and all its greatness. I’d reluctantly add spoonful after spoonful of sugar or honey to my tea just to try to mask the taste then ultimately abandon my sickeningly sweet concoction about halfway through.

New beginnings

But, I’m both proud and excited to say that green tea and I are now best buds! And it’s all thanks to a colleague who showed me the light. He made me my first cup of good green tea. It was NOT bitter in the least. Apparently, I’d been brewing it all wrong. Go figure. Unlike black teas where you can dunk the tea into freshly boiled water, green tea requires cooler water. By scorching it, I was bringing out that terrible taste. You simply boil water and then let it sit for a while. My rule of thumb is more like a rule of index finger: If I can dip my finger in without pain, it’s ready for the tea. Then let the tea steep for about 3 minutes. The result is a very delicate, grassy flavor.
Having found this new friend, I’ve been looking for ways to incorporate it into my life. And this green ice tea detox is one of my absolute favorite. To boost the long list of benefits, I add some lemon juice which contains vitamin C and helps flush out toxins. Depending on my mood, I’ll toss in some mint or cucumber for added flavor. And besides just drinking it over ice on a hot summer day, you can also put it in smoothies instead of milk or water. Besides the wealth of health benefits I listed above, it is low in calories and gives you a slight caffeine boost. I LOVE it in my morning smoothies! I’ll try to do a post soon with some of my favorite green tea smoothie recipes.

7.12.2013

Pomegranate Rosé Summer Spritzer



I'm back at home in the good ol' US of A to celebrate my no-longer-little sister's 21st. When did she get so old!??? When did I get so old??? SOBBB. While this milestone initially left me nostalgic for years past when we all lived under one roof, it dawned on me that I have also gained a new drinking buddy. We can show up to happy hours across America and slip on cocktails. We can order margaritas and chow down on Mexican food. We can order a beer with our burgers! 

As the older, wiser sister, it was my job to pick out a drink for the family birthday bash that would good down easy with everyone. Since we were having crab cakes, it needed to be something light and refreshing. We ended up making my go-to summer drink: a rosé spritzer. Normally, I keep it super simple with a fresh, fruity rosé and some sprite. But I wanted to "kick it up a notch" to borrow Emeril's catch phrase). She is turning 21 after all. Some pomegranate juice, lemonade and fresh berries made it just that much more festive. 

Disclaimer: This drink is excessively drinkable. Luckily it doesn't have the same punch as a Long Island Ice Tea or we'd all be in trouble. 

Hope you enjoy! 

6.28.2013

Cold Sesame Chicken Noodle Salad




Out of nowhere full-on, sweaty summer has arrived: temperatures in the 90s, soaring humidity, don't-even-bother-bringing-a-sweater kind of weather.

All I want when I come home is something cool and fresh. This salad is exactly what I was craving. Tangy, spicy and sweet Asian flavors coating succulent noodles and crisp snow peas – chilled to perfection with a hint of sesame.

Added bonus: you can whip out a batch ahead of time and it makes for superb leftovers. In fact, it’s best when left in the fridge for a while so the noodles and chicken really soak up the gingery, garlic dressing. It is one of my go-to dishes for summer potlucks.

If you are trying to cut down on carbs, just change the pasta to veggie ratio. When I want a lighter meal, I reduce the pasta by half and add more cabbage and snow peas. I also recommend adding bean sprout for an extra crunch!

What I love, besides the cool crunch, is that it is an all-in-one kinda meal. You don’t need a side or a salad, because everything is packed into one.  

6.20.2013

Fish Tacos



I have had this for dinner at least once every week for the last month. Behold: Fish Tacos! I cannot get enough. I LOVE IT! Feel free to scream-sing those lyrics Icona-Pop style.

Besides being delicious, the tacos are fast to make and require minimal stove time so you can enjoy the summer weather instead of sweating in your kitchen. My favorite part of the dish, though, is the salsa salad I put in the tacos. It's a medley of sweet corn, blackbeans, avocado, red pepper and red onion that I top off with fresh lime and Mexican spices. It is so bright and crispy! I skip tomoatoes, because they often get so watery and seedy unless they are in season.  Sometimes I throw in mango if I want to really bring out the sweetness, but I feel like it does not go as well with fish as it does beef or chicken.

If you want to lighten up the meal, skip the tortilla and cheese and simply serve the fish and salsa salad over a bed of greens with your favorite Mexican dressing. I also just make the salsa salad as side. If you have it over rice, quinoa or salad it's makes for a great meal.


6.19.2013

Finnish Berry Pancake


This completely satisfied my Sunday-morning sweet tooth without sending me into the sugar-induced comatose state that syrup smothered pancakes do. An eggy pancake filled with berries and dusted with some powdered sugar. This was my first go at a delicious recipe I found on (you guested it) Pinterest. And success! It reminded me of my beloved popovers except in pancake form and instead of filling it with fresh fruit salad the berries go directly into the batter. And comparing the ingredients, it is pretty identical. Eggs, milk, flour and a touch of butter. What is not to love?

Admittedly, I was cheeky enough to tweak her recipe before I even tried it. I reduced the butter slightly, added some lemon zest to brighten the flavor and opted for a mix of frozen berries instead of raspberries. Nothing groundbreaking! But I have a good feeling this could turn into a great savoy recipe if I left out the sugar and added herbs and sprinkled parmesan on top. 

6.06.2013

Waldorf Chicken Salad Wrap

 
I’ve been known to get behind In-N-Out burgers, the occasional Subway sandwich or some Chick-fil-a every now and then. And as a child, I definitely would beg my parents to take me to the golden arches, partially so I could play in those grubby jungle gyms, but mostly for the collectable toys. But I fear I am slowly becoming one of those people. By those I mean the ones that turn up their nose at fast food. It wasn’t until yesterday that I realized how unappetizing processed food has inadvertently become to me.

I had just climbed onto the metro and plopped down on a seat after work, exhausted, slightly sweaty and 100% ready to be home when this smell hit me. Something like old grease, melting plastic and dusty moth balls. I scanned my surroundings for the culprit only to find someone next to me had pulled out a burger. I scanned again, unwilling to realize the truth: yes, this was the source. Burger King. I found myself repulsed as he scarfed down his flattened bun and square patty in about five seconds flat while clutching the oil-stained bag. THAT IS NOT FOOD, my internal voiced screamed. Food simply does not smell like that!
At that moment, I was just so happy to be coming home to my dinner. I guess having fewer processed foods in my diet I has really changed my taste buds over the last few years. The thought of my Waldorf chicken salad wrap had my mouth watering. After a hot day, it is just so refreshing to chow down on a mix of cold, crisp grapes, crunchy celery and sweet apples. And after eating real food, you just feel so much better. No bloating, no sluggishness followed by immediate hungry. It replenishing body’s nutrients instead of giving your liver  toxic junk to process. So do yourself a favor and eat something real.

6.04.2013

Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Wilted Spinach Casserole



Until this year, Thanksgiving and Christmas were the only occasions sweet potatoes made it into my life. I would dutifully try the orange dishes year after year, not wanting to seem ungrateful or immature. But if I’m honest, I didn’t particularly enjoy eating them. Somehow the way they straddled that line between sweet and savory made my palate cringe. I couldn’t wrap my head around eating anything covered with marshmallows alongside green beans and meat. It just felt so wrong.

It wasn’t until I had the pleasure of trying deliciously crisp, salty sweet potato fries that I realized I might need to reassess this whole aversion thing. At first, I was solely fixated on them in fry form. And why not, they are just sooo freaking amazzing. Sweet potatoes became my saving grace while I did my 40 days of no processed sugar and carbs. But I also couldn’t help thinking… there has got to be more I can do with them. So, slowly but surely they are finding new ways into my diet. This recipe happens to be one of them. I made a vegetarian version, but you can easily throw in some chicken for more protein. I would just bump up the eggs to 4 and add a bit more milk and cheese to coat everything.