How to Make a Salad that Doesn’t Suck

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We get it. You think salads are boring, unsatisfying and the epitome of diet food. But munching on greens doesn’t have to suck! If you don’t like salad, you probably don’t know how to make a good one. Delicious salads (or any food) should be colorful, vibrant and fresh with lots of interesting components. I promise you won’t feel the need to eat pizza after you make one of these amazing salads. They will keep you full and help you get in more veggies in your diet!

How to Make a badass Salad:

1) Use an Array of Greens!

Ditch the lettuce! Your salad will be infinitely better with other delicious and nutritious greens. Experiment and find a mix that you like.  Try kale, spinach, and arugula or even add some herbs!

2) Add Textures and Color

Make your salad interesting by adding something crunchy. Good quality croutons, nuts and seeds are what I like best. You can even add other crunchy veggies like celery, cabbage or shredded carrots. The options are endless!

3) Add protein & Healthy Fats

This will keep you full and make the salad satisfying. If you eat meat, try add some chicken, steak or seafood. I almost always add cheese because, well, everything is better with cheese!

More options:

  • Avocado
  • Walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans
  • Hummus
  • Chickpeas
  • Hard-boiled egg

 4) Add Fruit or Additional Veggies!

Use whatever you have in the house! Don’t overcomplicate it by adding too many ingredients. Maybe some strawberries or dried cranberries? Olives? Radishes? Use what you like and make it work for you! One of my favorite summer combinations is: Spinach, strawberries, goat cheese, walnuts and lemon vinaigrette! Don’t be afraid of adding fruit!

5) Make your own Dressing!

It’s always going to be easy to buy a bottle of salad dressing from the grocery store, but making your own is so simple and more beneficial. You can control all the amounts and ingredients. Lots of processed salad dressings can contain unnecessary ingredients and emulsifiers. Try sticking to an oil & vinegar based dressing rather than a creamy one.  A good salad always needs some type of acid – lemons, limes, balsamic or apple cider vinegar is the way to go.

 

Here are some of my favorite go-to dressings!

Methods: Use a whisk and a small bowl to combine ingredients or find a small mason jar and shake until the oil and vinegar everything is emulsified.

The most simple Lemon Vinaigrette: ½ lemon squeezed, 2 tbsp. olive oil, sea salt & black pepper

Garlic Balsamic Vinaigrette: 1 clove of crushed garlic, 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tbsp. raw honey, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, sea salt & black pepper

Maple Tahini Dressing: 2 tbsp. tahini paste, 1 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tbsp. organic maple syrup, a squeeze of lemon or vinegar, sea salt & black pepper

Herb Vinaigrette: ½ lemon squeezed, 2 tbsp. chopped herbs (basil, parsley or thyme), 1 tbsp. raw honey, 2 tbsp. olive oil, sea salt & black pepper

Easy Seafood Paella

I was inspired from my trip to Spain to make this amazing regional dish! Full of bold flavors, spices and the most amazing rice you will ever taste!  Paella is definitely my new favorite food and I was so excited to come home and attempt to make it myself. The concept is very simple – just rice, veggies and any meat or seafood. It turned out so amazing and I am happy to share the recipe with you!

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Ingredients:

  • ½ cup Arborio rice
  • 2 cups approx. chicken or veggie broth
  • 1 cup red and green bell peppers
  • ¼ cup frozen green peas
  • ¼ cup artichokes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. black pepper or cayenne pepper
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Your choice of seafood: I used shrimp & mussels
  • 1/8 cup fresh parsley

Method:

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  1. Prep rice, seafood and broth ahead of time – cut peppers and veggies into bite sized pieces
  2. In a cast iron pan or deep skillet, cook peppers in olive oil for 4-5 minutes until slightly softened.
  3. Add rice and “toast” for 2 minutes
  4. Add peas, garlic and any other vegetable, stir for 1 minute. Artichokes and green beans are also common.
  5. Add broth to the mixture and let it simmer for 30-40 minutes until rice is cooked. Cover and stir occasionally. Add more broth or water as needed.
  6. During this time you can cook the seafood separately or add it on top of the rice 5-10 minutes before it is done. The heat from the pan will cook the seafood. Be sure to cover with lid.
  7. Top with parsley and serve
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Cook peppers for in olive oil, add rice and “toast” for 2 minutes

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Add peas and any other vegetables you’d like! Cook for 1 minute

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Add chicken or veggie broth and simmer for 30-40 minutes

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Final product w/ fresh parsley! Enjoy

Pro Tips:

  • Saffron is usually used to give the rice a golden color. Since it is the most expensive spice in the world, I used turmeric as a substitute. Real Paella uses saffron! If you can find it, use it!
  • Traditionally, Arborio rice is used for paella, but I used a combination of short grain brown rice and Arborio. Use what you have! Any rice will work.
  • Make your own chicken or veggie broth! If you have leftover chicken or old veggies you need to use up, there’s no excuse not to make one! I made my own veggie broth using leftover carrots, celery, onions, tomatoes, basil, oregano, bell peppers, and zucchini. I simply sautéed the veggies in some olive oil and poured in 2 ½ cups of water once the veggies had cooked for 6-7 minutes. I let is simmer for about 20-30 minutes.
  • Adjust amounts of broth and rice accordingly. If you like your rice more tender, add more broth.
  • Add any seafood, meat, or keep it vegetarian! In Spain I had both chicken paella and seafood paella. Use what you have and make it work for you!
  • If you like your veggies to keep more texture in the dish, saute them less time in the beginning of the recipe. I like my peas and peppers to keep their color (and nutritional value!)

Fresh from the Market: France 2017

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I’ve had the amazing opportunity to study abroad in France this past month through the University of Minnesota. I’m so excited to come back and share some amazing recipes and talk about my experience with you all! I’ve been exploring Paris, Nantes and Angers while learning about the agriculture and food systems. One of the highlights of this trip was visiting the beautiful farmers markets with my host mom every Saturday. I have never been happier being surrounded by an abundance of fruits and veggies, all grown locally and organically.

The first thing I noticed was the connection to food in this country. I’ve been visiting so many organic farms with my classmates and it’s truly incredible to see the value that people put into their food. I’ve noticed that most French people are aware of where their food comes from and really strive to buy produce that was grown in France.

My message to you: shop local and know where your food comes from!

Some of the best apricots and cherries I’ve eaten on this trip came from my host family’s backyard. Also the best Camembert cheese I’ve tasted came from a small farm, where I got to meet the cows and watch the farmer produce the very product that he loves.

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Some amazing goat cheese I bought ❤

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Best Pre & Post Workout Snacks

Best Pre and Post Workout Snacks: How to slay your workout!

A question that I get asked frequently is what you should eat before and after you workout! Knowing when and what to eat can make a big difference in your fitness performance. It is important to listen to your body and fuel it properly with the right foods. If you are properly nourished, you will feel good from the inside out and have a killer workout!

The key: Protein and Carbohydrates

It is important to eat both protein and carbohydrates pre and post workout. Glucose is the main source of fuel for out cells. When we eat carbohydrates, our body converts the energy into glucose and stores it in the form of glycogen. When we exercise, our bodies use glycogen and ATP to get our muscles moving!

Since our bodies only store a small supply, it is important to replenish with good food. Studies suggest that eating or drinking carbohydrates before exercising can improve fitness performance and allows you to workout for a longer duration or at a higher intensity.

After a good sweat session, your body restocks glycogen and repair muscle proteins. Eating protein after a workout helps increase muscle synthesis, enhance recovery and restore glycogen in the body. Fueling yourself with the right nutrients is very important to ensure optimal fitness performance

Best Timing: Eat 45-60 Minutes Beforehand!

Eating too much or too little can make you feel sluggish or lightheaded when you exercise. It can also give you stomach cramps in the middle of a workout. I recommend that you eat a small snack 45 minutes before and after working out. Try not to go longer than 2 hours without eating if you are planning on working out that day.

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants – Michael Pollen

Here are some snacks that I recommend. They are easy, portable, budget friendly, and will help you get through a fantastic workout.

  • Apple & peanut butter
  • Banana & almond butter
  • Plain greek yogurt w/ granola
  • Smoothie (check out recipe on my blog)
  • Nuts or trail mix (dried nuts & fruit)
  • Hummus & carrots
  • Oatmeal w/ fruit
  • Avocado
  • Eggs
  • Sweet potato
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Protein bar (make sure you read the ingredients! Look for good quality bar with no refined sugar snickers bar)
  • WATER!!! I know this is not necessarily a carb or protein, but water is often overlooked. Staying hydrated is key to ensuring a good workout. If you sweat, replenish with lots and lots of water.

Snack Examples: 

Greek yogurt, granola & fruit

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Avocado, Egg, Sweet potatoes, Raspberries

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Brown rice cake, avocado, egg, orange

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Ginger kombucha (fermented tea) & bar

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Overnight oats w/ fruit & granola

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Egg, veggies & hummus

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Peanut Butter Energy bites: Full Recipe Here

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Smoothie of the Day #8

Smoothie Ingredients:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Cucumber
  • Celery
  • Ginger
  • Lemon
  • 1 frozen banana
  • Handful of Strawberries
  • Maca Powder
  • Chia seeds

I used 1 tsp. of maca powder & 1 tbsp. chia seeds
I put everything in a blender & added a frozen banana to make the smoothie creamy!

Amazing! This is truly my favorite color! 🙂

Health benefits of Maca Powder:

  • Increases energy
  • reduces oxidative stress
  • improves memory
  • helps balance hormones
  • Supports thyroid health
  • improves cognative function
  • High in iron, zinc, magnesium and potassium ❤

 

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

What do you do when you have leftover ripe bananas AND zucchini? Make this delicious zucchini bread of course! I made two batches last week and they are already gone (in my belly). This is the perfect breakfast, toasted and slathered with almond butter, or the easiest snack to just grab and go!

This zucchini bread is made with spelt flour, coconut sugar, coconut oil and dairy free chocolate chips! It is so simple to make, and very delicious. Oh, not to mention spiked with cacao powder for that double chocolate-y goodness.

Baking with zucchini is a really great way to get veggies into your diet without even trying! You wont taste the zucchini because it has such a mild flavor, but you will see little green specks. I highly recommend keeping the skin on because that is where a lot of the nutritional benefits are. For those of you who have never used zucchini before in your baking, get ready to be amazed!  Shredded zucchini  makes your bread (or cake) super moist.

Here are the ingredients that you will need:

  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 mashed banana
  • 1 1/2 cup of shredded zucchini
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup dairy free chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup of coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar (maple syrup or honey also works)
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup of walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

1) combine mashed banana, coconut oil, shredded zucchini, eggs, vanilla and coconut sugar in a large mixing bowl

2) add spelt flour, cacao powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and sea salt: stir until barely combined

3) add chocolate chips and walnuts!

4) pour batter into a greased loaf pan (I used coconut oil) & top with more walnuts and chocolate chips if desired 🙂

5) bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Let it cool completely before slicing!

6) enjoy! 🙂

Zucchini health benefits:

  • helps improve digestion
  • reduces blood pressure
  • helps maintain eye health
  • good source of antioxidants, vitamin C and potassium!
  • anti-inflammatory
  • rich in B vitamins
  • reduces risk of cardiovascular disease
  • aids in weight loss

Cacao powder health benefits: 

  • high in antioxidants
  • rich source of magnesium
  • helps build strong bones
  • detoxifies the liver
  • regulates blood sugar levels
  • anti-aging properties
  • improves your mood (due to the phenethylamine)

Health Benefits of Vitamin D3

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that plays an essential role in the human body. It is also known as the “sunshine” vitamin because you can absorb it through 15-20 minutes of sun exposure. However, during this time of year (October-March), people living in the Midwest/Northern latitudes may be deficient due to insufficient sunlight in the winter.

Living in Minnesota, I know I don’t get a lot of sunlight, especially since I’m cooped up inside watching Gossip Girl. Hey, it’s winter break. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  This winter I decided to take a supplement to counter my inevitable deficiency.

Vitamin D deficiencies have been linked to osteoporosis, higher blood pressure, diabetes, mood disorders and higher rates of certain cancers. It is so important to get enough, especially since it can impact up to 2000 genes in our bodies! Vitamin D is essential for bone health, immune functions and mental health.

Vitamin D works with vitamin K in our bodies to help absorb calcium into our bloodstream and help deposit calcium and phosphorus into our bones. This is why I chose to supplement with both Vitamin D3 & K2. Also, taking this vitamin in a liquid form is more beneficial than capsules because our bodies can more easily absorb it.

 

Vitamin D is also fat soluble, meaning that it is best absorbed when eaten with a good quality fat or a full meal.

Food sources of Vitamin D3:

  1. salmon
  2. tuna
  3. mackerel
  4. egg yolks
  5. cod liver oil

Health Benefits of Vitamin D3:

  1. boosts immune system
  2. improves bone & teeth health
  3. aids in calcium absorption
  4. destroys bad bacteria and viruses
  5. increases energy levels
  6. improves mood, combats seasonal affective disorder
  7. helps manage a healthy body weight
  8. improves DNA repair
  9. reduces risk of autoimmune disorders
  10. fights infections
  11. decreases blood pressure

Dosages may vary depending on your individual needs. A safe amount to start with is 1000 IU, but be sure to speak with a health care professional to get the appropriate amounts.

I put one drop in my smoothie: kale & spinach (yay more vitamin K), frozen banana, frozen strawberries, 1 tsp. coconut oil, 1 tbsp. chia seeds, 1 tbsp. cacao powder, water. Blend & enjoy good health. 🙂

Vegan Falafel Recipe 

I’ve been craving falafel recently so I decided it was finally time to make some! I grew up eating Mediterranean food but if you are unfamiliar with falafels, I would describe it as a crispy, chickpea fritter. They are so delicious and unbelievably easy to make! This was my first attempt, and I am happy to announce it was very successful. Healthy, protein-packed, vegan, gluten free deliciousness. Please give these a try!

Here are the ingredients that you will need:

  • 1 cup of chickpeas (canned or dried & soaked for 24 hours)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro (or parsley)
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. coriander
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tbsp. of millet flour (or spelt flour for non-gluten free option)
  • squeeze of lemon

Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until you get a crumbly – wet sand consistency

You can use any kind of flour, but I chose organic millet flour. Millet is nutrient dense; it has B vitamins, calcium, iron, potassium and magnesium – all essential for good health.

Taste for salt. Seriously, these will be sub-par if they are under seasoned!

If you squeeze the mixture, it should hold its shape. If not, add more flour as needed.

Form into balls or patties and pan fry in olive oil until crispy. It should take about 3 minutes per side. Don’t be afraid of frying! People have done studies measuring the amount of oil before and after frying.When done properly, it’s remarkable how little oil is actually absorbed. Having said that, you can also bake these at 350 for 20 minutes.

Mmmm…. I put them on some salad and drizzled with tahini! Sooo amazing!

The inside should be nice and fluffy, with a crispy outside. Enjoy! 🙂

Smoothie of the Day #7

  • Handful of spinach 
  • Frozen mango chunks 
  • 1 frozen banana 
  • Fresh pineapple chunks 
  • Hemp seeds 
  • Almond milk 

Overnight oats:

  •  1/4 cup of steel cut oats
  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup of almond milk
  • pinch of cinnamon 

-Combine ingredients in a sealable container and store in the fridge overnight for the perfect oatmeal!