Friday, October 30, 2015

Spice Roasted Carrot Salad with Arugula, Quinoa, Pumpkin Seeds, and Lime Vinaigrette

Towards the end of grape harvest I spent a lot of time in Sonoma, which gave me time to eat at one of my favorite gourmet delis, the Dry Creek General Store. I'm still avoiding wheat, so sandwiches were out (however they do offer gluten free bread). But it wasn't a problem, because they always have fantastic salads. One of the salads I enjoyed many times was a roasted carrot salad with arugula, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, and lime dressing. The flavor and textures together worked so well. I decided to re-invent my own version at home, and I think it's pretty close to the original.

Before I get into the recipe, it's also important to mention: I'm doing the 21 Day Fix! Two questions to answer: what is the 21 Day Fix and why am I doing it?

The 21 Day Fix in an exercise and eating program through Beach Body (of P90X fame). It appealed to me because it seems like the perfect program for busy people. Color-coded containers that tell you how much to eat and one 30 minute workout a day. I can do that! Workouts range from cardio, upper body, lower body, pilates, and yoga.

Now the why: I'm doing this because now that the field season is winding down I want to get into a new routine. I'm not going to be tromping in the field for some time, which means I need to replace my daily activity with something new! I also have a friend who is a beach body consultant and I felt inspired to join her fall group on Facebook so I wouldn't have to do this alone. Camaraderie helps! Another good thing about the program is that it focuses on whole foods, which I feel like I already have a grasp of. Also, I think it's important to remember to take care of ourselves. 30 min/day is only 2% of your day, so there's plenty of time to fit one of the workouts in. I've been testing out am vs. pm workout times. While my body is a little more stiff in the morning and it feels difficult to get going, at least it's over with and I won't have to think about it for the rest of the day!

I used my 21 Day Fix containers to figure out this recipe for 4 servings. For each serving it's 1 green (half carrots and half arugula), 1/2 yellow (quinoa), and 1 orange (half dressing and half pumpkin seeds). You can adjust the amount of each component of the salad according to your needs. You can omit the quinoa if you want to make this Paleo. I've been eating quinoa from time-to-time because three yellow containers of sweet potatoes becomes monotonous. I also don't have a problem with eating this pseudo-cereal. Here's a tip: rinse the quinoa well before cooking to remove any bitterness.

Since Halloween is just days away, I think this salad would be perfect on the table for a grown-up Halloween party!

Spice Roasted Carrot Salad with Arugula, Quinoa, Pumpkin Seeds, and Lime Vinaigrette
Printable Recipe

1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into slices on the bias
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
coconut oil spray
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp avocado oil (or olive oil)
2 cups arugula
4 tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
1 cup cooked quinoa
salt, pepper, and stevia, to taste
coconut oil spray

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the carrots on a foil-lined baking tray sprayed with coconut oil spray. Toss with the cumin, coriander, and some salt and pepper. Roast 25-30 min, tossing halfway through, or until tender.
2. Blend the lime juice with the oil and salt and pepper, to taste.
3. Toss the roasted carrots with the arugula, quinoa, and dressing. Serve, garnished with the pumpkin seeds.

Smoky Roasted Red Pepper Dip

Happy Halloween! Halloween is my favorite holiday, so for the potluck party at work today, I went all out on my recipe. This recipe was a throwback to the Halloween parties I had when I was a kid. My mom used a plastic candy pail as a dip bowl so the table would look festive, and I wanted to re-create my own version. I planned to fill a pumpkin with dip, but when I went to the store all the little sugar pumpkins were gone, so I got a kabocha squash instead (one of my new favorite foods...can't wait to cook it up later!). Actually the green rind of the squash looked really good next to the orange dip. I served it with multi-color baby carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, plantain chips, and gluten free crackers.

There are a lot of possibilities with this recipe. I think this dip would also make a fantastic sauce to drizzle over white fish or chicken. The smoked paprika and cumin lend a subtle smokiness that is a change of pace from the standard old ranch dip.

Smoky Roasted Red Pepper Dip
Printable Recipe

1 clove garlic
1 cup walnuts
1 12-oz jar roasted red pepper, drained
1/2 cup mayonnaise (homemade or Paleo, whichever you prefer)
6 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper, to taste
Optional toppings: 1 tbsp walnuts and 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds, extra paprika

1. Add the garlic and walnuts to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until they make a coarse meal.
2. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until the mixture is well combined. Taste for seasoning. Chill until you're ready to serve. Top with walnuts and pumpkin seeds and a sprinkle of paprika.

This dip made enough to perfectly fill a re-purposed 16-oz cottage cheese container. I just used the widest end of the container as a template and then chipped away at the inside of the squash until the container fit.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Salmon Cake Benedict

When most people think of Las Vegas, ideas of casinos and luxury hotels probably come to mind. However, Vegas also has an amazing array of fantastic restaurants. Though I haven't been there myself, when the folks at got in touch with me asking for my take on a Vegas restaurant recipe, I was extremely inspired once I visited their website. I gravitated towards Giada de Laurentiis' restaurant Giada because I've been a fan ever since her show Everyday Italian was on Food Network. When I read the description of her restaurant, her Salmon Cake Benedict stood out. I'm not sure what her interpretation of the dish is, but I thought a salmon cake would be the perfect substitute for an English muffin, since I personally avoid wheat. I made an easy blender hollandaise and layered the salmon cake with a poached egg and an herb and spinach salad to add some freshness. This recipe looks complicated, but several parts of the recipe can be made in advance. The recipe is written in the order that I used to prepare the final dish.

Salmon Cake Benedict
Printable Recipe

For the salmon cakes:

1 lb cooked and cooled salmon fillets, flaked with a fork*
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp minced fresh dill
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
4 tbsp minced shallot
8 tbsp blanched almond meal
dash cayenne, optional
salt, black pepper, and white pepper, to taste
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Blend the fish, egg, dill, parsley, shallot, 2 tbsp of the almonds, cayenne, peppers, and salt. Mix together thoroughly. Clean hands work best for this.
2. Pour the remaining almond meal on a plate. Make 4 patties, pressing both sides of each patty into the almond meal. If your salmon had more retained moisture, more almond meal may be necessary.
3. Set on a plate and refrigerate 1 hour.
4. Meanwhile, make the salad, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce.
5. To cook the salmon patties, heat the oil over medium in a large skillet. Add the patties, cooking until browned on the first side before flipping. Do not flip excessively or they will fall apart. Remove from skillet and set aside in a warm place.

*Salmon can be left over or prepared according to your favorite method. I poached skin-on salmon fillets in 1 cup each white wine and water with a pinch of salt for about 6 min or until just opaque, then allowed the salmon to cool to room temperature before skinning and flaking with a fork. This can be done a day in advance.

Poached eggs:

6 fresh eggs
2 tsp white vinegar
pinch of salt
Simmering water (amount depends on the size of the skillet)

1. Heat approximately 2 inches of water in a deep skillet over medium heat. The water should not be bubbling, only simmering. Add the vinegar and salt. Crack each egg into a ramekin or small dish and drop them in, one at a time, carefully spacing them out in the skillet. Turn off heat but leave the skillet on the burner. Immediately cover and cook 5 min. Do not stir while they are cooking.
2. Carefully, lift each egg with a slotted spoon to a plate. Gently blot with paper towels to remove excess moisture. To re-shape the eggs, use a paring knife to trim any bits of white away. Eggs can be served immediately or chilled in an ice bath up to 8 hrs and re-heated in warm water before serving. If re-heating, blot with paper towels before serving.

Herb and Spinach Salad:

4 tbsp coarsely chopped parsley
4 tbsp coarsely chopped dill
2 cup shredded baby spinach
4 tbsp finely chopped red onion
4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Add spinach, herbs, and onion to a small bowl. Drizzle over juice and oil. Season with salt and pepper. Thoroughly coat the greens with a light coating of the dressing. Divide between four serving plates. The salad can be tossed together while you are waiting for the egg poaching water to come to temperature and while the eggs cook, if you choose not to prepare them ahead of time.

Easy Hollandaise

2 large egg yolks (use fresh eggs)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
salt to taste
dash of cayenne

1. Recipe can be made with a blender or immersion blender. Add the egg yolk, juice, and cayenne to the pitcher of the blender or container for the immersion blender. Blend to combine.
2. Slowly, drizzle in the melted butter to form a smooth sauce. Season with salt. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Final Assembly: Place a salmon cake on top of the salad. Top with the warmed poached egg. Finish with as much hollandaise sauce as you'd like. Serve.

Monday, August 10, 2015

All About Almonds! Three New Recipes

When I learned about the almond project at, it got me thinking about all the ways I include almonds in my meals and snacks, and I realized almonds are on my table all the time!
Since I recently relocated to California, one of the world’s top almond producers, I get to see lovely almond trees all the time. However, almonds have played a role in my meals and snacks long before my move here because they provide fiber and healthy fats, which I find sustain me between meals. Even a handful of almonds as a snack keeps me going for a long time, and because I work in vineyards nearly every day, and quick snack of almonds is the perfect pick-me-up. I also realized how often I include almonds in some form of my meals. From more fancy, thought-out recipes to a quick sprinkle of sliced almonds on top of yogurt and salad, almonds add amazing texture to my recipes.

Here are a few almond recipes I’ve been making over and over again. I find these recipes evolve with seasonal produce, so you can use your imagination to adapt them year round!

The first is a salad recipe that my dear friend Misha introduced me to. Since I’ve moved to California, I’ve experienced new flavors and have incorporated new ingredients, but I’ve kept the basics of the recipe, including the almonds! My favorite part of this version is if you get a nicely ripened avocado and juicy tomatoes, they become part of the dressing when you toss the salad and add an amazing flavor. The almonds make this work because of their fantastic crunch! You can arrange the salad ingredients in color blocks, like I did, or sprinkle everything around. Either way, you will have a bowlful of rainbow on your table!

Misha’s Salad, California Style

For the salad:
6 cups mixed baby greens
1 cup halved or quartered baby heirloom tomatoes
1 small avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
½ cup chopped red onion
1 cup peeled, chopped cucumber
¼ cup sun dried tomatoes
½ cup sliced almonds

For the dressing:
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp honey
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1/8 tsp Herbes de Provence
Gnerous pinches of salt and pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1.  In a bowl, arrange the salad ingredients.
2. In a small bowl, mix the mustard, honey, vinegar, herbs, salt, and pepper. While whisking (I use a fork), slowly drizzle in the oil. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and serve.

Peaches are in season, so I’ve had my share from roadside stands! I’ve been chopping up ripe peaches and layering them with yogurt and almonds to make a quick breakfast or snack. The combination of almonds and ground flax seeds reminds me of pie crust, but this is a much healthier recipe than pie! If you are used to sweetened fruit yogurts from the store but want to make a switch to plain yogurt, this is a great recipe to try. Adding a pinch of salt may seem odd, but I think it heightens the flavor of the peaches and gives it a “pie crust” flavor, which has a subtle saltiness.

Peach Pie Yogurt Parfait

1 ripe peach, chopped (roughly 1 cup)
Small pinch of pink Himalayan salt (optional)
Stevia to taste (optional)
¾ cup plain yogurt (Greek or regular are both fine)
Cinnamon, to taste
2 tbsp sliced almonds
1 tbsp ground flax seeds

1. Add the peaches to a parfait bowl or dish. I like to cut the peaches over the bowl so I catch the juices. Sprinkle with salt and stevia, if you are using them.
2. Top the peaches with yogurt, sprinkle on as much cinnamon as you like, then top with the almonds and flax. Serve.

Finally, another breakfast or snack idea involves one of my favorite versions of almonds---almond milk! I haven’t bought regular milk in a long time because I just love unsweetened vanilla almond milk in my smoothies. This smoothie is fiber-, protein-, and healthy fat-packed! I can’t do super fruity smoothies because I get hungry so soon after I drink them. This one sticks with me.

A helpful trick for blending up greens is to freeze them. If you don't have a high speed blender, frozen greens whip up more quickly, and if you have some greens that aren't looking so fresh you can save them!

Almond-Chocolate Greens and Protein Smoothie

1 cup almond milk
1 cup mixed "power greens" such as kale, chard, and spinach (frozen, if desired)
1/4 medium avocado
1 serving chocolate protein powder, such as this one (can add cocoa powder depending how chocolaty your protein powder is)
a few drops pure almond extract
Stevia, to taste (optional)

1. Blend the almond milk and greens until smooth.
2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

I hope you enjoy these almond-packed recipes. Thanks!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Savory Roasted Root Vegetable Hash

I didn't realize it had been since February since I last posted. I've made many changes in my life, mainly taking a new job in California and thus finished my cross-country move that was 7 years in the making. I'd set an intention to move to California for at least a year now, and for the move to finally happen felt miraculous. My work started right away, so I hit the ground running, having barely moved into my apartment. The move-in process has been slow simply because I've been working so many hours and have spent much of my weekend hours exploring my new territory and working on writing. Therefore, I have had little time to cook. I've only had my oven on a few times in the 2 months I've been living here, which is pretty ridiculous. I'm on the lookout for new food inspiration and I'm going to set a goal of posting more often. It should be easy to find food inspiration because California has amazing produce...what could be more inspiring? Plus I've met many new people who have given me new meal inspiration, such as this special Guatamalan breakfast with plantains cooked in coconut oil, eggs, crema, homemade refried black beans, and avocado. This meal is the definition of "stick to your ribs."

Even though I regularly take photos of food, they are greatly outnumbered by photos of my travels for work. I'm fortunate to go to Sonoma on a weekly basis (heartbreaking, I know...). The Napa/Sonoma area is so beautiful it's surreal. Even dilapidated barns peeking through the early morning fog are enchanting. Every view is worthy of a photograph.

Most of my breakfasts are something quick while running out the door and finished while I'm driving to work. On a recent less-than-full-tilt weekend I prepared a full-on breakfast with Trader Joe's sweet basil pesto sausages, eggs, avocado sprinkled with a little sea salt, and crispy roasted root vegetable hash. The hash was inspired by the spice rack I recently purchased, which had savory on it. Savory is a pretty obscure herb that kind of smells like pizza to me, so I wanted to try and meld it with other herbs. I think avocado is a requisite accompaniment to go with this herbed mixture of sweet and regular potatoes.

Savory Roasted Root Vegetable Hash
Printable Recipe

1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium white or Japanese sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 medium red onion, diced
1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 tsp dried rubbed sage
1/2 tsp dried savory
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Toss all ingredients together and arrange on a baking tray (foil covered, if you wish).
3. Bake for 15 to 20 min, then toss. Continue cooking 15 to 20 min more, or until the outsides of the potatoes are crispy and the insides are tender.

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