Coconut Lime Salmon with Cauliflower Rice

DSCN3669Well hello there! After a little blogging break I’m back and so excited to share what’s on my plate with you! Lately, I’ve been experimenting with some different styles of cooking. I highly recommend doing this if you find yourself in a food/cooking rut where you’re making the same things over and over again. That was totally me at the end of the winter and I knew something needed to change.

I turned to some current trends like Paleo and vegan to see if I could step outside of my comfort zone and learn a thing or two. And you know what? It’s working wonders for helping me rediscover my passion in the kitchen. Just to be straightforward, I don’t follow any of these diets nor do I plan to. Mostly, I appreciate that they both focus on eating whole foods. {Plus, I often like these recipes because they don’t involve cheese.} I’m loving incorporating a few Paleo and vegan meals into our weekly menus…even though I usually wash them down with a chocolate chip cookie or two : ) Balance, right?

I also love how they’re teaching me about new ways to use certain foods and ingredients. For this roasted salmon, for instance, I used coconut oil, which I absolutely love. I haven’t used it in many dishes so this gave me a new opportunity to experiment with it {total success}. I also made cauliflower rice, which has been a great replacement for brown rice lately. By the end of this winter, I was ready to ease up on the carbs a little bit anyway. {I’m also loving making zucchini noodles with my new spiralizer. Recipes to come!}

If you’ve never made cauliflower rice it couldn’t be simpler: Send the florets through your blender or food processor until it resembles rice. Pour it out onto a baking sheet and roast for about 15 to 20 minutes. I like to toss the “rice” with a teaspoon or two of sesame oil for flavor. Easy as pie, right?

I hope you enjoy this meal as much as we did. I’m excited to share some of my other recent cooking successes with you in the coming days and weeks!

Coconut Lime Salmon with Cauliflower Rice

Coconut Lime Salmon with Cauliflower Rice

Serves 2 (with leftovers)

For the salmon:

Ingredients

  • 2 to 3 salmon filets (about 6 oz each)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 1/2 to 2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • Juice of 1 lime

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425. Place salmon in a glass baking dish and season salmon with salt and pepper. Combine the coconut oil and lime juice in a bowl and pour over salmon. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until cooked through.

For the cauliflower rice:

Ingredients:

  • 1 head cauliflower, leaves and stems removed, cut into florets
  • 1 to 2 tsp toasted sesame oil

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425. If you’re using a food processor, add cauliflower florets all at the same time and pulse until it resembles rice and pour out onto a baking sheet. If you’re using a blender (I used a Vitamix) add florets about a cup at a time, blend just until it resembles rice (you don’t want to mash/pulverize it), then pour out onto a baking sheet, repeating until all of the cauliflower has gone through the blender. Spread “rice” into a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, tossing halfway through. Drizzle 1 to 2 tsp sesame oil onto “rice” and toss to coat evenly.

Life Lately: Home Improvements

Hi friends! It’s been a while since I did a little Life Lately post and updated you on some of the fun things going on around here besides food. So today I’m excited to share some of the big home improvements we’ve made lately. Our main living floor, which includes the living room, dining room, and kitchen is very nearly D-O-N-E!

If you’re new to the blog, we bought our townhouse in Chicago last July and moved in in August. Since we got married in September we didn’t do much furnishing/decorating for a while. The first big improvement was our kitchen backsplash in December. I also introduced you to Jana Bek. Her eye is amazing and she’s such a joy to work with. She’s made everything so easy for us and the best part is that although she provides tremendous input she takes all of our opinions and preferences into account so everything is still 110% us.

Eventually I hope to do a home tour with higher quality photos, but for now here’s a glimpse at our home as a work in progress.

 Living room. Light, bright, and cozy were what we were going for. I love that we worked in pieces we already had like the couch, Santa Monica print (a gift from Robert after a trip to L.A. together), the sampler (a handmade wedding gift), white stag, and side table along with newer items like the coffee table, pillows, rug, lamp, and painting.

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Our new built-ins. When we moved in, the spaces where you see the white cabinets were just two open, unfinished holes. Two weeks ago we had the cabinets built and we’re so happy with how they came out.

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 Dining room. The new light fixture may be my favorite part of our home so far.

DSCN3654Record table

For Robert’s birthday this past friday (happy birthday, love!) I gave him a record player and my parents gave him the speakers. We had such a fun date Friday evening after work shopping for records and starting our collection. The turntable has been spinning pretty much ever since he set it up Friday night. I’m loving it just as much as he is. In this age of multi-tasking devices, there’s something so simple and satisfying about an object that serves only one purpose. Plus, it looks pretty cool if you ask me : ) The records and seagrass bench probably won’t live there permanently {the bench lives in our bedroom–our next big project}, but it works here for now.

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Finally, here’s a shot of the kitchen table in party mode before Robert’s birthday party on Saturday. I realized afterward that I didn’t get a final picture with the most important dishes–slow cooker BBQ pulled chicken {for sliders} and two trays of mac & cheese. For those who asked for recipes, check out the links above. It was also my first time making a three layer cake and frosting from scratch.

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We had so much fun celebrating with friends {too much fun to remember to take any pictures, apparently} and loved inviting so many people into our home for the first time. Creating this space into something we love has made it feel more like a home than ever before.

Sauteed Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad

Sauteed Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad with Toasted Almonds & Pomegranate Seeds

I feel like I’ve been gone for so long and yet I’ve gone absolutely nowhere at all. I’ve been here, working hard.

With Robert’s crazy-long hours at work this time of year, I often revert back to my single gal meals. Soup, soup, and more soup. These gluten-free waffles, a fried egg (he’s not a fan of breakfast for dinner so I eat it a lot when he’s not around), and green juice. Roasted salmon and sweet potato. Not exactly exciting.

BUT. This salad got me excited about experimenting in the kitchen all over again. It came at a time when I had had it with soft food. I have eaten all of the soups, stews, and slow cooker meals I can possibly handle for a good, long while. I just can’t take it any more. I want light, crisp, and juicy! Food that requires molars!

The only problem? It’s still not warm enough to feel satisfied on raw veggies. That’s why this salad was exactly what I needed. The shredded brussels are sautéed, but still maintain a bit of crunch. Toasted almonds? More crunch. Pomegranate seeds? Crunchy and juicy. I made this salad with my absolute favorite vinegar that I discovered on our honeymoonFustini’s fig balsamic vinegar. I’ve gone through two big bottles since September and find a way to put it on everything. However, I’ve also made this salad with regular balsamic vinegar and it’s still totally delish.

I haven’t made an all Trader Joe’s recipe in a while and this is definitely one (not to worry– you can still find all of the ingredients even if you don’t live near a TJ’s.)  I love the packages of pre-shredded brussels sprouts and pomegranate seeds, which make this a super-quick,  superfood-packed easy weeknight (or any night) salad.

Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad with Toasted Almonds & Pomegranate Seeds

Sauteed Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 10 oz shredded brussels sprouts (about 3 cups)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 Tbsp fig balsamic vinegar or regular balsamic vinegar (feel free to taste & add more as you like)
  • 1/3 cup raw slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds

Preparation:

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add shallot and sautee about 1 minute. Add brussels sprouts, season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes, until leaves turn bright green and are slightly softened. Add vinegar and toss to coat. Remove brussels sprouts to a bowl. Allow them to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Add almonds and pomegranate seeds.

High-protein Gluten-free Blender Waffles

High protein gluten free waffles. Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside - just as they should be! For well over a week I have been obsessed.

Uhhhhhbbssesssedddd.

A woman on a mission, some might say.

High protein gluten free waffles

Never in my life have I tested a recipe so many times before arriving at a winner. The funny thing is, my very first shot at making high-protein gluten-free waffles was completely delicious. But I was determined to do better than delicious. I was after perfection. {Hello, type A.}

Whenever I sub out ingredients ({like flour, sugar, and butter in this case} it has to be worth it. Really really worth it. And I won’t settle for a sub-par outcome just because it’s a little healthier. No sir.

High protein gluten free waffles

For me, high-protein g-free waffles had to live up to everything I love about the original. While I nailed the flavor from the get-go I’ve literally made {and eaten} dozens and dozens of waffles since then. Hard work, but someone’s got to do it. I kept going until I finally arrived at the ideal combination and proportion of ingredients that delivered the texture I was after. You know what I’m talking about: That crispy exterior and fluffy interior that’s essentially the reason I crave waffles to begin with.

Let’s talk about some of those ingredients:

  • Rolled oats
  • Almond milk
  • Egg white
  • Fat-free cottage cheese {if you, like me, think this is one of the yuckiest foods known to man, I assure you that you can’t taste it at all–it really helps with the fluffy texture and high protein content, though}
  • Flaxseed {packing as much health into these babies as I can. Say hello to cancer-fighting lignans!}
  • Banana {I’ve made it with and without. Definitely use the banana. It also helps with the texture and since there’s only one there isn’t a strong banana flavor. It doesn’t need to be very ripe, but the riper it is the more you’ll taste it.}

Take all of those ingredients plus a few more {cinnamon, vanilla, and baking powder} and whirl them in a blender for about two minutes. Let it rest while you heat the waffle iron. And voila: Amazing waffles that can legitimately pass for a meal instead of eating dessert for breakfast {or lunch or dinner}.

Serve with a green juice and you’ve successfully consumed every food group. Waffles you can feel really, really good about? My work here is done.

High protein gluten free waffles

High-protein Gluten-free Blender Waffles

Makes 4 waffles

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats {if you can’t eat gluten for health reasons make sure they’re gluten-free}
  • 3/4 cup almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup fat-free cottage cheese
  • 2 tsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 banana, peeled
  • Heaping 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preparation:

Blend all ingredients together in a blender on medium-high speed for 1.5 to 2 minutes. Heat waffle iron while batter rests {If you have a choice of heat settings on your waffle iron, I prefer a hotter setting (like a 4 on a 1 to 5 dial) to help with the crispy exterior}. Once heated, spray with non-stick cooking spray or brush with melted butter or coconut oil. Pour batter onto iron and cook until finished {or leave on for another minute or two for extra crispiness}. Eat immediately with any toppings you like such as 100% maple syrup, fruit, or yogurt. Like regular waffles, they’ll get soggy the longer they sit.

Balanced Juicing: My thoughts, tips & favorite green juice recipe

Balanced Juicing: My thoughts, tips, and recipe for making juice a part of an overall healthy diet.

While I’m usually the last one to get on board with a trend {and usually it’s no longer trendy at that point} I am all about juicing. 

I’ll admit, I first learned about it because it’s so popular. As it turns out, I absolutely love juicing. Loooooooove it! I feel strongly that juicing will continue to be a part of my life long after health nuts are onto the next craze.

I’ve also found ways to make juicing a part of my overall way of eating. You’ll never hear me utter the words “cleanse” or “detox” around here. ::shudder:: If you’re considering juicing or wondering how to do it without forgoing solid foods, I hope my experience sheds some light on ways to do just that. Below, I did a little Q&A {yup, this journo interviewed herself} about all things juicing.

Why do you juice? 

There’s plenty of literature out there that talks about the health benefits of juicing, nutrient absorption in the absence of fiber, etc. But for me the reason is simple: It’s a way to consume lots of nutrients directly from plants.

What do you love about it?

Most importantly, it makes me feel great. I always feel energized after a glass {part of that is from the natural sugars in some of the ingredients, but mostly it’s because of the flood of nutrients.} When I drink it in the morning, I love that I start my day on a great nutritional note. On days when I don’t eat as well as I should, I know that I did something good for myself if I juiced at some point. It’s also a great way to clean out the fridge when we have leftover fruits and vegetables from the week {who can ever make it through a whole bunch of parsley anyway? Juice it!}

How does juicing fit into your overall way of eating?

For the most part, juicing doesn’t take the place of anything, it’s just another way to get a heap of nutrients that make my body feel great. However, I recently cut way back on coffee so many mornings I start my day with green juice and hot tea instead of coffee. Occasionally I’ll have juice in the afternoon kind of like a snack.

Why do you prefer juice over smoothies?

Smoothies are awesome {Robert has them all the time}, but they don’t fill me up enough to actually count as a meal–though they contain as many calories as one. Instead, I’ll have a green juice and solid food. Most mornings I’ll have green juice followed by a bowl of Greek yogurt and my maple walnut granola.

What kind of juicer do you have?

I have the Breville Juice Fountain Crush Slow Juicer and I highly recommend it. From personal experience, I suggest buying a slow juicer instead of a centrifugal juicer. We started with a centrifugal juicer {this one}, a piece randomly broke, I did some research about whether to replace or upgrade the juicer and discovered that slow juicers are much better at extracting  juice from greens and that’s exactly what I’ve found to be true. I get significantly more juice from spinach, kale, swiss chard, romaine, and everything else with the slow juicer than I did with the other one. It also creates very little waste {meaning you get much more juice}. This is all of the waste that came from making the glass of green juice at the top of this post:

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Having said all that, centrifugal juicers are often more affordable and still do a great job at juicing.

What are some of your favorite tips for juicing?

  • Prepare all of your ingredients before juicing. Wash your fruits and vegetables, cut anything that needs to be cut, etc.
  • Place a plastic produce bag over the container that collects the waste. Afterward, you’ll just toss the bag and have to clean one less part.
  • Alternate ingredients. After a few pieces of a leafy green such as kale, for instance, juice something juicier like a piece of apple, orange, or cucumber, and then juice something green again. This helps push more of the green juice through.
  • Clean your juicer right after you juice. Most of the time, I only need to run the parts under warm water and everything comes right off.
  • Clean the glass your juice was in as soon as you’re done drinking it. Otherwise, the juice will stain the glass {speaking from experience…}

What’s your favorite juice recipe?

I love all kinds of juice, but green is my favorite and the one I make most often. It’s slightly different each time depending on what ingredients we have, but here’s a guide for making a delicious, nutrition-packed green juice:

Balanced Juicing Recipe

Makes 1 glass of juice

  • 4 handfuls of baby spinach {or: 4 to 6 stalks of kale, swiss chard, or other leafy green or one head of romaine lettuce}
  • 4 to 6 inch section of cucumber, unpeeled
  • 1 – 2 carrots, unpeeled
  • 1/2 apple, unpeeled
  • Sliver of ginger, unpeeled {about 1/2 inch thick}
  • 1 to 2 clementines, peeled {or: 1/2 orange, 1/4 grapefruit, 1/2 cup pineapple, peeled}
  • 1/4 lemon or lime, peeled
  • 2 celery stalks
  • Big handful of parsley or cilantro
  • 2 oz water

Send all ingredients except water through the juicer, alternating greens with juicier ingredients such as apple, orange, or cucumber. With the juicer still on, add the water to push any remaining juice through. Pour into glass and drink up.

I hope this is helpful! If you have any questions leave them in the comments and I’d be happy to answer them as best I can. Cheers!

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m sending a big, fat virtual hug to you all today.

Are you doing anything fun with your friends or sweetheart? Robert and I are planning a low-key night at home. I’m making this Greek Chicken and Potatoes {an absolute favorite} for dinner. Then we’ll catch up on DVR–maybe some Olympics, Bachelor, or House of Cards {!!!} A perfectly relaxing evening if you ask me. Robert’s working craaaaazy hours for months so any amount of time we get to spend together is special whether it’s Valentine’s Day or not.

I was perfectly happy to stay in this year, but I was thinking back to this time just a few years ago. We’d only been dating for two months when Valentine’s rolled around. He sent me the most beautiful pink roses, which were completely unexpected, and took me on a date to a fabulous Chicago restaurant called Perennial Virant. I was smitten. Although I’m not one to typically give into the V-Day hype {see: sweatpants and DVR} I had never felt more special in my life.

It’s probably a little late to suggest something you can make for Valentine’s Day if you’re cooking tonight, but I hope you keep this soup in mind for some time soon.

I’ve tried to make the perfect beef barley soup for years and I have finally done it. Truly, this is the last beef barley recipe I ever need. Jackpot! It’s rich, a perfect balance of chunky and brothy, and I even snuck some spinach in there, too. I ate this throughout the week and was totally bummed when it was all gone. Time to make another pot!

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 lb beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley
  • 3 handfuls baby spinach
  • Parsley for garnish

Preparation

Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add beef stew meat, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook until cooked through. Remove meat to a bowl and set aside.

To the pot, add onion and leek. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and celery, saute about 5 to 8 minutes. Add mushrooms, garlic cloves, and dried thyme. Cook 5 minutes more. Add beef broth, water, barley and meat. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until barley is cooked and softened, about 25 minutes. Add spinach, cook until wilted. Serve soup with chopped fresh parsley for garnish.

Sweet Potato Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

Sweet Potato Turkey Shepherd's Pie. A lighter, healthier version of the original with a delicious mashed sweet potato topping.

Well folks, it appears I am on a casseROLL. Get it? Oh, food humor.

We’re still freezing our faces off in Chicago so we need all of the comfort we can get.

Until recently, I wasn’t a big fan of “lighter” versions of more indulgent recipes. I didn’t see the point. My thinking was you could just have a reasonable-sized serving of the original and don’t have it every day. Recently, my thinking has shifted.

While there’s still a time and a place for those more indulgent recipes like special occasions and dinner parties, when you’re making something you’ll be eating throughout the week like we do, it needs to be nutritionally dense and, yes, lighter. So I see those richer recipes as templates or inspiration and then dream up ways to transform them.

How I did that here: Instead of ground beef I used a mixture of ground white and dark meat turkey. There are tons of veggies {though minimal chopping because I relied partly on frozen organic vegetables along with fresh mushrooms}. And instead of mashed potatoes I mashed sweet potatoes with only four ingredients: sweet potatoes, a tiny bit of butter {just 2 Tbsp}, salt and pepper.

In the end, the result is something completely different from traditional shepherd’s pie, but every bit as satisfying and better for you.

Sweet Potato Turkey Shepherd's Pie. A lighter, healthier version of the original with a delicious mashed sweet potato topping. Sweet Potato Turkey Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

For the mashed sweet potatoes:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Salt & pepper

For the shepherd’s pie filling:

  • Olive oil
  • 1.5 pounds ground turkey (I used 3/4 lb ground white meat and 3/4 lb ground dark meat)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (such as carrots, peas, corn, and green beans)
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 Tbsp flour

Preparation

For the mashed sweet potatoes:

Place sweet potatoes in a pot and cover with a few inches of water. Bring to a boil, continue cooking until potatoes are fork-tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Drain. Place potatoes in a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or use an electric mixer/handheld masher). Add butter. Season with salt and pepper. Mash until light and fluffy.

For the filling:

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add ground turkey. Season with salt and pepper. Cooked until turkey is cooked through. Use a wooden spoon to break turkey up into smaller pieces. Remove turkey from pot, place in a bowl, and set aside.

To the pot, add onion. Saute 1 minute. Add celery. Saute until soft, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms, and 1/2 cup chicken broth. Use wooden spoon to deglaze bottom of the pan. Cook until mushrooms start to cook down, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add frozen mixed vegetables, 1 cup chicken broth, tomato paste, worcestershire sauce, rosemary, and paprika. Add flour and stir until thoroughly combined. Add turkey back into the pot. Simmer about 10 minutes

**Preheat oven to 350 degrees while turkey filling simmers**

Prepare the casserole: Fill bottom of baking dish {I used 9 x 13in) with turkey filling. Top with mashed sweet potato and smooth across the top. Bake about 25 minutes until bubbly.