Growing up in Indiana, I always looked forward to summer.
What kid doesn’t, right? Summer meant no school and that meant lots of warm days and nights filled with fun. I remember playing so hard that when my head hit the pillow, I almost instantaneously fell asleep. Those thoughts and memories make me smile, because I love remembering how easy and wonderful life was then. Summer to me also meant sweet, delicious fruit. And I loved it all, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, peaches, strawberries and WATERMELON!
It’s probably not too shocking to hear that I love salads. But, let me clarify, I like salads that have lots of flavor and that satisfy. So if I’m building a salad, rest assured that it will taste good, be nutritious and leave you feeling content – like a happy little rabbit. Guaranteed then, that this Spinach Salad with Macerated Strawberry dressing will leave your little white tail twitching with joy.
That’s right, you read that correctly, I said “Fertility Friday + Smoothies!” A random pairing? Of course not, I do everything with intention…ok, well almost everything.
Today for Fertility Friday I would like to focus on the amazing nutritional power of smoothies. Yes, I know that people are crazy about smoothies these days. They make their own, they buy the fancy one that costs 10 dollars and they insist on having them every morning for their “bowl” breakfast. But this is one trend where you can believe the hype…at least to a certain extent.
*Disclaimer – this recipe hasn’t actually won any official awards or titles. And it hasn’t been entered in any recipe contests or been featured on the Food Network. So my guacamole is technically “award-less,” however it’s unofficially a “winner” (hence, Winning Guacamole) in my small circle of nearest and dearest. And I’m about to let you in on my not-so-secret recipe! But first, there are some things you should know.
Guacamole 101: What You Need to Know
Pick the Avocado – This is a big deal, so it’s imperative you get it right. How do you choose the right avocado? Depends on when you want to make your guacamole. If you don’t need it until a couple of days from now, it’s ok to buy the rock-solid avocado because it will continue to ripen. If you want it tonight, buy the one that gives just a little when you apply a light pressure to it. Skip the super soft ones and the ones with dents and dings.
Don’t Skip the Onion – So many people tell me they want to leave out the onion, but I encourage you not to do that. Instead, if onion causes you trouble, consider this little trick – chop it and then add it to a bowl of water. Let it sit there while you’re making the guacamole and then drain it and add it. Soaking the onion will help remove some of the bitter compounds, so you won’t have that pungent onion taste in your mouth.
Add salt – Every time I make this guacamole someone always asks, “why does this taste so good?” It’s not that I am an awesome guacamole maker or that I have a special guacamole secret, it’s just salt. Yes, you heard me, salt. If you don’t add the right amount, it’ll just taste like mashed avocados and onion. Add the salt, and you’ve become a culinary genius! Afraid of salt, it’s ok, I understand, but in this recipe I’m only using 1/4 teaspoon of salt and that equals to about 145 milligrams of sodium per serving. That’s a relatively small amount considering 2300 milligrams per day is your cutoff.
There, now you’re armed and dangerous. Time to get to the store and stock up on avocados so you can make a big batch of my No Fail Winning Guacamole!
Fertility Friday + Recipe for Maple Cinnamon Almonds
Do you remember back in the ’80’s and ’90’s when all fat was considered “bad?”
Looking back on that time, it was almost comical the degree to which we feared fat. Companies worked so hard removing it from their products and people went crazy buying fat-free everything. I remember noshing on a box of fat-free cookies thinking, “wow, no fat, but they sure taste good, I’m so glad they’re good for me!”
Fat is Back?
Oh dear! Luckily research has improved and we are no longer shunning fat. In fact, now we know that fat is vital to our existence. Fats provide energy, help us absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and can keep our hearts healthy. We just have to be smart about the type of fats we’re choosing and how much of them we’re eating.
But I Can’t Eat as Much as I Want?
While all fats fit, it’s important to keep moderation in mind. Saturated and trans fats are the types of fats we should limit. Research is always on-going on this, and recently saturated fast have been in the news about not being as “bad” as we once thought. My advice? Stick with moderation. Go for the whole milk, but keep your serving to one cup. Enjoy that birthday cake, but choose the small slice instead of the massive monster piece. See where I’m going with this? Don’t over-indulge. It’s never wise to eat too much of one thing, right?
Instead, focus on getting more healthy fats into your diet. We call those unsaturated (specifically monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) fats. These unsaturated fats can also help support fertility by helping control blood sugar and tamper inflammation. Where do you find them? Great question!
Where to Find The Fantastic Fat:
Sources of polyunsaturated fats: fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines; flax seed and flax seed oil, walnuts and edamame
Sources of monounsaturated fats: nuts (like in these Maple Cinnamon Almonds!) and seeds, avocado, canola and olive oil
Putting it Together
It’s easy! Eat fat, but make smart choices. Stick with moderation and balance your intake with other foods. Eating this way just makes sense! Feeling inspired? Get into your kitchen and make these yummy Maple Cinnamon Almonds so that you can enjoy some of those nutritious healthy fats!
Super easy snack made with almonds, maple syrup and ground cinnamon.
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/2 cups almonds
Preheat the oven to 300’F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Place the salt, maple syrup, water and cinnamon in a medium pot and set over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir to combine. Pour in almonds and stir until almonds are well coated. Spread out on prepared sheet pan and bake 20 minutes, rotating the pan half way through cooking time.
“Simplify, simplify, simplify!” Henry D. Thoreau, eloquently and prophetically proclaimed in his famous work, Walden.
That demand to simplify seems even more relevant today than it likely was in 1854, when Walden was first published. How many of us challenge that decree everyday? Adding more things that instead “complicate, complicate, complicate!” Ugh. Thoreau’s mantra is one I’m trying (somewhat successfully) to practice in my daily life. I’m not taking the easy way, but the smart, simpler way. Case in point, I recently got so frustrated with making healthy lunches for my family. PB&J was in the lunch box more than I would’ve liked. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that sandwich, but variety is a good thing.
Inspired by Thoreau, I decided to “simplify” lunch.
And with this Chickpea Hummus Wrap, I simplified on execution, but didn’t sacrifice taste or flavor! Yay! It all starts with a whole grain wrap and continues with layers of flavor. Canned chickpeas and pre-washed baby arugula keep things easy and fast. Flavor boosters like feta cheese and pepitas add a simple, yet tasty addition.
Luckily, the Recipe Redux theme for this month was how to get out of our “lunch rut.” How appropriate! Fortunately I figured out just how to do that with this Chickpea Hummus Wrap!
And here are the pretty picture of my Chickpea Hummus Wrap:
That’s what everyone wants right, for everything in life to be a little easier? No lines at the post office, no red lights on the way to work or perhaps someone around who can clean your house and do your laundry? Well, sure that would be fine and wonderful, but it’s just not possible. The good news though? There is one area of your life that I can assure you can be easier, and that’s meal preparation.
“How?” you ask.
Just ask my friends at the Recipe Redux. The theme this month is simplicity and simplicity to them means recipes that contain less than 7 ingredients. Brilliant! My recipe for this month is super easy. I start with French green lentils, which are earthy and delicious and hold their shape and texture well. Then, I add fresh veggies in the way of bell peppers, cucumber and spinach. I jazz it up with a little fresh parsley and feta cheese and then use simple vinaigrette-based salad dressing to put that exclamation point on EASY! And there you go, in just about 30 minutes, you’ve made an amazing lentil salad that is not only delicious, but nutritious. Bravo!
And when you’re done making this recipe, check out the recipes below for more inspiration. They’re all super delicious and nutritious, less than 7 ingredients and EASY!
And Here are the Pretty Pictures of my French Lentil Salad:
A simple, yet elegant salad made with green French lentils, fresh spinach, cucumbers, parsley and feta cheese.
1 cup green or French lentils, picked over, rinsed and drained
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 cups spinach, thinly sliced
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup seeded, diced cucumber
1 cup fresh parsley, cleaned, dried and finely chopped
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup Balsamic vinaigrette or Italian salad dressing
Place lentils in a medium-size pot and add water to cover by about 2 inches. Set pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in salt and continue to simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes or until lentils are tender. Spread on a sheet pan to cool or, rinse in cool water.
To a large salad bowl, add the cooled lentils, spinach, bell pepper, cucumber, parsley, feta cheese and cooled lentils. Drizzle dressing over the vegetables and lentils, then toss to combine. Add salt and black pepper, if desired.
And it’s time to switch things up a bit. Yes, romaine is good and so are tomatoes and all of the other “usual” salad suspects, but why not try something new? What would you say to Arugula Salad with Apricots and Champagne Vinaigrette?
“That’s too fancy!” Is that perhaps your answer? I sure hope not because that’s just not true. Yes, it may sound fancy, but the ingredients are simple and the recipe is easy. See, not fancy at all!
My new salad obsession just happens to begin with my favorite green, baby arugula. There’s just something special about that little green leaf. It’s just so….spicy and interesting. And I like my food spicy and interesting! When you pair arugula with dried chopped apricots (for a little sweetness), sliced apples, pistachios, feta cheese and champagne vinaigrette, you’ve got a unique salad that is incredibly interesting (and nutritious).
So bust out that bowl and salad tongs and get mixing!
The Pretty Pictures of My Arugula Salad with Apricots and Champagne Vinaigrette:
Here’s the deal, you could spend 50 cents on a lackluster burrito, or you could spend half that and have a tasty burrito loaded with nutritious ingredients. If you’re like me, you’ll choose the 15 cent burrito. Not sure how to make this amazingly inexpensive, delicious burrito? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. My Easy Freezer Burritos recipe is below and some pictures in case you need inspiration or instruction.
Don’t buy burritos anymore! Make them yourself with delicious, nutritious ingredients to fill you and nourish you.
1 cup prepared quinoa*
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed (about 1 1/2 cups)
3/4 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/2 cup tomatillo salsa
12 whole wheat or sprouted whole grain 8-inch flour tortillas
3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
In a large mixing bowl, combine the quinoa, black beans, corn, salsa and cheddar cheese.
Lay tortillas out onto a clean work surface then spread 1/4 cup bean mixture down the middle of each tortilla.
To roll: Fold one end of the tortilla to meet the other. Gently push back the tortilla and ingredients so they are tight. Fold outside edges inward, then roll until burrito is closed. Repeat the process with the remaining burritos.
Tear 12 sheets of foil. Place a burrito in the center of each piece of foil and tightly roll up. Place foil-wrapped burritos in a freezer bag. Label and date them before storing them in the freezer.
Remove burritos from foil and place on a microwave-safe plate. Cover and cook on high heat for about 1 minute. Check and add more time if necessary. If you’re unsure, use a food thermometer and cook until internal temperature reaches 165’F.
Makes 12 burritos
*Of course I wouldn’t leave you hanging! Here’s how you prepare the quinoa: http://www.sarahaasrdn.com/freezer-quinoa/
There’s just something so remarkably fresh about them that makes me happy. At one of my old jobs, I had to make spring rolls on a relatively regular basis. During that time, I could crank out hundreds of those little guys. I would be tired, with a sore back and cross-eyed when I was done. But that didn’t deter me from eating the scraps or messed-up rolls. Ah, the memories!
Here’s the deal with spring rolls, they are so delicious, but can be so annoying to make. Please, please don’t get mad if your first 2 or 10 look horrible. I promise you that they will still taste good. Just keep trying and soon you’ll be a professional “spring roller.”
Veggies abound in spring rolls and that makes them a fantastic, nutritious choice. They are the perfect vehicle for so many kinds of veggies too. You don’t have to stop at carrots and lettuce (like my version below), you can add peppers and jicama for example. Really, just be creative and have fun with them. But don’t forget the basil, mint and cilantro, they are the key to flavor and offer their own nutritive bonus too.
These are bean thread noodles.
Simple to make, just pull out of bag and plop in some water.
Watch them grow and feel them soften. Takes about 15 minutes and they’re done.
Get all of your ingredients together before rolling. Trust me on this one.
Look how yummy that is, even before you roll it!
Roll ’em up! And don’t worry what they look like, ok?
Refreshing and satisfying, these spring rolls are a perfect for an appetizer or light lunch.
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons water
1/3 package bean thread noodles, prepared according to package directions
5 small lettuce leaves (Bibb or baby green or red leaf lettuce)
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
1/3 cup mint leaves
1/3 cup basil leaves
1/3 cup cilantro leaves
5 each spring roll skins/wrappers
Combine the lime juice, honey, soy sauce, crushed red pepper and water in a small saucepan. Set the pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Toss 1-2 teaspoons of the dipping sauce with the prepared bean thread noodles.
Prepare a large bowl of warm water for softening the spring roll skins and lay out all of the filling ingredients; the lettuce, carrots, peanuts, mint, basil and cilantro.
Remove 1 spring roll skin from the package and gently submerge in the bowl of warm water. Gently swish until spring roll skin becomes loose and flexible. Carefully remove it from the water and place on a clean kitchen countertop. Place one lettuce leaf on the bottom and then top with some noodles, carrots, peanuts and herbs. Take one edge and fold over to meet the other edge, then pull back on the fillings (like you’re making a burrito) until tight. Then fold in the sides and continue rolling the spring roll until sealed. (If you break the skin, just get another one and try again! If you can’t roll it, don’t worry about it. Just place everything in the middle and fold it up. I promise it will taste the same!)
Slice rolls in half, if desired and serve with dipping sauce.