Monthly Archives: December 2013

Healthy Winter Detox Salad

Winter Detox Salad

I realize this is the least festive thing you could lay your eyes on right now, but hear me out. If you’re like me then at some point during the holiday season you’re going to be aching for something that’s not coated in sugar, sprinkles, or sauce. And if you could somehow fit some kale and omega-3’s in there, well, it would be a Christmas miracle. I hear you.

So that’s exactly what you see here. Wintery roasted veggies–brussels sprouts, beets, butternut squash, and turnips–with a healthy filet of roasted salmon all served atop raw kale with a citrusy vinaigrette. And don’t forget about the pomegranate seeds!

There are a lot of different components with this meal, but you can essentially stick the veggies in the oven and forget about them for a little while. And if you want to take an even simpler approach,  grab a package of pre-cut butternut squash from Trader Joe’s so you don’t have to deal with peeling, slicing, and dicing one of those buggers.

So while this plate of health may look a little insane at the moment, I promise that at some point over the next few weeks you’ll be begging for some good clean food. When that time comes, I’ll be right here. Until then, let’s savor every cookie and every moment we get to spend with the people who matter most to us.

Happy holidays!


Winter Detox Salad

Winter Detox Salad 

Serves 2 with leftovers

  • 1 12 oz. package peeled and cubed butternut squash
  • 1 16 oz. package brussels sprouts, ends removed and halved
  • 2 turnips, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 large beet, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • Olive oil
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale, stems removed and leaves cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Pomegranate seeds
  • (2) 6 oz. salmon filets
  • salt and pepper

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Generous squirt of honey
  • Splash balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and turnips on a roasting pan or baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil (about 1-2 Tbsp). Mix with your hands to ensure everything is lightly coated

Separately, place beet pieces in the center of a piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil. Mix with your hands and fold the edges of the foil together to form a small packet. Place on a separate baking sheet.

Place both baking sheets in the oven and cook about 40-50 minutes until everything is cooked through and starts to brown.

When vegetables are almost ready, prepare the salmon. Drizzle with olive oil and season with some salt and pepper.

Once vegetables come out of the oven increase the heat to 450 degrees. Remove the package of beets from the baking sheet and place salmon on the baking sheet. Roast salmon, skin side down, in the oven 12-15 minutes until cooked through.

Whisk salad dressing ingredients together in a small bowl.

To prepare the salad: Place kale at the bottom of a big bowl. Massage leaves with your hands until they start to soften, about 2 minutes. Top kale with roasted vegetables. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. Add as much salad dressing as desired (you might not use it all) and toss until evenly coated. Divide salad ingredients into two bowls. Top each with salmon filet. Add additional salad dressing if you like.

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Our Home: New Kitchen Backsplash!

It’s no secret that the kitchen is my favorite place in our home. When we first looked at our townhouse (reminder: it was the only property we saw during our very brief house hunt) I didn’t need to look much further once I laid my eyes on the wide open kitchen, plentiful counter space, and ample cabinet and pantry storage. I knew it would do the trick. For the past five months (has it really been five months already?) it certainly has.

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Although the kitchen is entirely functional, we knew we wanted to make some improvements for it to appear more finished. To be perfectly honest, we really, really, really wanted to paint the cabinets white. But after several contractors (and my dad) warned us against it we decided to nix that plan and keep them as is.

Once we scratched that off our list, installing a backsplash became priority numero uno.

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Before we dove into the project we made a very big decision. We enlisted the help of a wonderful interior designer, Jana Bek, to help us with several spaces throughout our home. Fancy shmancy, I know. Robert and I have both accepted that interior design isn’t our greatest talent. It is, however, important to us to live in a bright, cozy, and welcoming space. I stumbled upon Jana’s work through a link to a Pottery Barn blog post on Instagram (hello living in the 21st century!) and loved what I saw: Bright, airy spaces with a blend of neutrals and pops of color that felt completely comfortable and livable. Jana does e-design, which means she doesn’t come to our home (though you’re always welcome here, Jana!). We work through photos, FaceTime, and Pinterest (don’t you love living in the future?) Working with our tastes, preferences, and budget she creates storyboards that reflect what each space will look like. We make tweaks back-and-forth along the way and then carry it out!

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For the backsplash, Jana sent us links to a few tile suggestions. The one Robert and I chose is something we would have never found on our own and we couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. It’s bright, clean, and cheery and looks like it’s always been there. I think it even makes the maple cabinets and black granite countertops look a little happier, too!

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To see what a big difference the backsplash has made here’s a little before and after action:

Before:

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After:

DSCN3181Swoon. Huge improvement, wouldn’t you say?

The next task is finding a kitchen rug to cozy-up the space even more. Early next year we’re having most rooms in our house painted so we’re (hopefully) deciding on paint colors soon. Stay tuned for more adventures in creating this space we love to call home.

 

Cookies & Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies & Cream Chocolate Chip CookiesWell hello there, Monday! I hope you all had a fab weekend. Today is especially non-Monday like for me thanks to the holiday just around the corner and something really fun happening around here. If all goes according to plan we’re having a backsplash installed today!!! Our kitchen is great, but kind of basic so a backsplash will hopefully make a big improvement. We decided to go with a tile that’s a little unique so I can’t wait to see how it will look. More to come soon, that’s for sure : )

Cookies & Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies

Do you remember how on Friday I jokingly mentioned I don’t have a schedule for posting recipes? Well that’s true, for the most part. It’s more like a mental list of what’s ready to be blogged when. I had something totally different in mind for today, but the moment I bit into these cookies yesterday afternoon all of that went out the window. I knew I couldn’t wait another second to share these with you.

Cookies & Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies

First of all, they’re absolute delicious – my ideal combination of slightly crisp around the edges and chewy in the middle. They’re a cinch to make. And with cookie-baking season in full swing I wanted to make sure you had a chance to add these to your list before those holiday parties wind down.

I baked with Candy Cane Joe Joe’s from Trader Joe’s, which I also used in these peppermint cookie brownies. If you can get your paws on those Joe Joe’s then definitely do. But I can guarantee good ol’ Oreos will totally do the trick. In other words, this recipe carries over no matter what time of the year it may be. Come to think of it don’t they make those pastel colored Oreos around Eastertime? Bingo! It’s like that skirt you can effortlessly transition from one season to the next. Except way better.

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Cookies & Cream Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 18 chocolate cream-filled sandwich cookies (I used Candy Cane Joe Joe’s, which are peppermint flavored, but any kind will do)
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place chocolate cream-filled chocolate cookies in a freezer bag. Use a mallet or heavy spoon to crush them. Don’t pulverize them too much. Make sure there are still some chunks of cookie remaining. Set bag aside.

In a bowl add flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine

In the bowl of a stand mixer or using a handheld electric mixer, cream butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla extract. Add flour mixture in several additions, mixing after each one. Add chocolate chips and mix until evenly distributed throughout. Stir in crushed cookies. Scoop dough onto parchment or silpat lined baking sheet by the heaping tablespoonful. Bake 10-12 minutes until edges slightly brown. Cool on baking sheet for a few minutes, transfer to cooling rack.

Life Lately

Happy Friday! I hope you had a great week and are looking forward to a fun and relaxing weekend. I sure am! As always, there’s lots going on here so I thought I’d take a break from regularly scheduled recipe posting (who am I kidding? there’s no schedule) and catch you up on a few fun things:

1. Wedding Photos!

We got our wedding photos last weekend!! Looking through our photos for the first time and reliving our happiest day is something I’ll always remember. We recently got a new TV and somehow Robert figured out how to view the images on the big, fancy hi-def screen. So we got cozy on the couch and scrolled in total comfort and joy. Every time I look through them I find a new gem I hadn’t noticed before or discover another favorite. I plan to share more with you early next year, but for now a sneak peak at my current fave:

2. Pure Barre

A few weeks ago I found myself in a Pure Barre class. I was actually on my way to yoga and decided, on a whim, to try Pure Barre. I’m the least spontaneous person on the planet so I surprised even myself with this move. At first, I liked it. A few days later I went again and liked it more. By the third class I was falling in love. Pure Barre and I are officially dating. We see each other 3 to 4 times per week. It took me a few classes  to figure out how exactly to do the moves (and I’m still learning). For instance, when your leg lifts up behind you, you’re not actually moving your leg, but activating muscles deep in your glutes. Your leg is along for the ride. I love that it creates both a physical and mental challenge. You know how much I adore yoga, but I needed something new lately. The hour flies by and I can’t believe it’s over. I always leave class feeling great–in a way I haven’t experienced with any activity before. I feel like I worked my body really hard, but I’m totally energized, alert, and ready to tackle the rest of my day.

3. These Peppermint Cookie Brownies

Peppermint Cookie Brownies

There’s only one time of year when I think putting cookies IN brownies is a totally genius thing to do and fortunately that time is right now. WOW! Fantastic brownie recipe + crushed Candy Cane Joe Joe’s (find them at Trader Joe’s) = the most delicious brownie I’ve ever had. Plus, it only dirties one pot. That’s huge! Sometimes I avoid baking because I don’t want to deal with the dishes afterward (true story), but with this recipe there’s no excuse. I’ll probably be making another batch later today. Find the recipe at What’s Gaby Cooking. The only change I made is adding about 2 to 3 extra crushed cookies on the top before baking for a visual clue of what’s inside.

Cranberry Orange Salsa

Cranberry Orange SalsaIf you’re like me then you sat down to your Thanksgiving feast, dove into the cranberry sauce and asked yourself, “Why on earth do we eat this goodness just one day a year?” Well, you don’t have to! Especially with this delicious variation I made that works with practically anything. Roast turkey? Sure does. But also: baked chicken, fish, roast pork, and definitely by the spoonful. It’s the ultimate (healthy) sweet to complement your savory.

I’m a huge fan of salsas all summer long like pineapple and peach, and this cranberry orange salsa is their wintertime counterpart. (Clearly I love the cranberry orange combo.) There are just a few ingredients: pulverized cranberries, orange zest and chopped segments, a tiny bit of red onion, and fresh mint. Yum. Whether you’re prepping menus for the next flood of holidays (hello Christmas and New Years…I can’t believe they’re almost here) or are looking for something to brighten up a wintery weekday evening this salsa aims to please.

Cranberry Orange Salsa

Ingredients

  • 20 oz fresh cranberries (or frozen and thawed)
  • 3 navel oranges
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion (about 1/4 of a big red onion)
  • 3-4 Tbsp fresh mint (or more), chopped

Preparation

Pulse cranberries in food processor or blender (I used the Vitamix) until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a bowl. Zest 1 orange directly into bowl. Peel all 3 oranges so there’s no white pith. Using a sharp knife, cut between membranes and chop orange segments into small pieces. Add to cranberries. Add sugar, red onion, and mint. Stir to combine. Taste and make any adjustments such as adding more mint, if desired.

Adapted from Bon Appetit 

How I Plan Our Meals & Grocery Shop

Cookbooks

I’ve wanted to write this post for so long, but I wasn’t sure how helpful it would be for others. However, last week I had an experience that made it clear just how important creating a meal plan and grocery shopping routine that works for us (and sticking to it) has been.

Last Saturday, after yoga, I stopped by Whole Foods to pick up a few ingredients for a recipe. While there, I decided to do our shopping for the week to save some time on Sunday, which is when I normally do it. Without a list, I winged it—I bought a bunch of fruit, veggies, fish, chicken, yogurt, etc. Sounds great, right? It wasn’t. Each day, I was totally distracted by what I was going to make with these ingredients since I didn’t have a plan ahead of time. And because they were kind of random (um…shrimp and sweet potatoes is not the best combination in my mind), every meal this week was kind of a dud. What’s more, I had to run to a little store near us twice to fill in some gaps, which ended up costing us more than we normally spend on weekly groceries. Finally, we were left with a lot of random items I didn’t use – a bunch of parsley, an extra beet, some turnips, greens, and I never did touch that shrimp (luckily it’s frozen).

For us, a successful meal plan and grocery shopping list means by the end of the week our refrigerator is close to bare. I love that sight on Sunday morning just as much as I love the sight of a freshly stocked fridge by Sunday afternoon. This recent experience reinforced just how well our routine has been working for us.

I should also mention that I love grocery shopping—as long as I prepare ahead of time— and that’s why I’m often the one who does it in our household.

I love learning what works for others so if you find yourself in a meal rut, overspending on groceries, or creating dinners that don’t make you do a happy dance in the kitchen each night maybe what works for us can help you too.

1. Check the calendar. Robert and I share a Google Calendar so I can easily see whether he has anything scheduled in the evenings. This helps me determine how many dinners we need. I can also identify particularly busy days and plan quick meals or slow cooker recipes for those nights.

2. Plan meals. My favorite, but also the most challenging and time-consuming part. Every Sunday morning, I head downstairs to the couch with my iPad and a few of my favorite cookbooks. I get about 90% of our meals from my Pinterest boards. I recently tweaked them so now I have specific boards for poultry, fish, meat, slow cooker, soup, vegetarian, and more. I update them daily with new items from blogs I follow, recipes I find online, and meals other people pin. I choose about one meal from any combination of those boards for a well-rounded week. In the summer I check out my grilling and salad boards, too. Then I flip through my cookbooks and see if anything catches my eye. Finally, I write down what we’re having each day to make sure we have a good balance. On average, I plan for about five dinners at home per week.

3. Make a grocery list. Next, I go through each recipe and identify ingredients we’ll need. I used to make my list on paper, but lately I’ve been using the Grocery iQ App and really enjoy it. My favorite part is that the items we always buy–staples such as milk, yogurt, apples, bananas, etc.–are already there and i just need to click to add them to the list.

4. Hit the cheaper store first. I almost always go to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. By stopping at the cheaper store first (TJ’s) I pick up the majority of the items on my list and fill in any remaining holes at Whole Foods.

5. Clean out the fridge. Once I return home and before unpacking my (reusable) bags filled with fresh goodies, I make sure the fridge is completely clear of any foods we’ll no longer eat. This includes any remaining leftovers, fruits or veggies past their prime, etc. Of course we do our best to minimize this waste and it helps that Robert loves leftovers more than anyone I know, but there still seem to be some stragglers from time to time.

Of course every person and every household is different. Over time, this is what we’ve found works best for us in order to have delicious weeknight meals (and lunches since we both usually eat leftovers for lunch), maximize our food dollars, and still have plenty of time to relax together in the evenings. I hope you find it helpful!

Slow Cooker Beef Chili

Slow Cooker Beef Chili ABalancedLifeCooks.comWell, here we are. The Monday after Thanksgiving. Cyber Monday for those who plan on doing a little holiday shopping. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Our long weekend was everything I hoped for and more: Lots of cooking, eating, and relaxing. Our Thanksgiving for three was a total success, 12 pound bird and all. I loved cooking the whole meal and now I’m ready to host Thanksgiving for 20. Who’s coming next year?

So let’s talk chili. If you’ve had your fill of turkey for a while (I know we have) this chili offers the ideal diversion and then some. I don’t know what’s taken me so long to make beef chili in the slow cooker, but it won’t be long before I make this exact recipe again.

Even Robert, who’s the most chili obsessed person I know (one time at a diner he ordered a chili cheeseburger and a bowl of chili IN THE SUMMER) declared it top 5 meals of all time. High praise indeed. The secret ingredient, cloves, comes courtesy of the chili his mom makes, which I finally got to taste last time we were in Kansas. Just trust me on this. A mere 1/4 tsp of ground cloves makes all of the flavors pop and provides a special type of heat. Not a spicy heat, but a warming heat. I’m so thrilled to finally have a go-to beef chili recipe and I hope you love it as much as we do.

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Slow Cooker Beef Chili

Serves 6-8

Ingedients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lbs. lean ground beef (I used 85%)
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 (16 oz) can red kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • Salt and pepper, if needed
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels

Preparation

In a skillet, heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until it begins to soften, about 5-8 minutes. Add garlic cook until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Add ground beef. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beef starts to brown. Add chili powder, cumin, and cloves. Mix until everything is coated.

To the slow cooker add browned beef mixture, kidney beans, and tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes. Cook on low 6-8 hours. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Add frozen corn and cook on low for 5-10 minutes until thawed and heated through.