Feed South Africa + Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette (Make Your Lunch & Buy A Child’s Lunch)

saladThe food blogging community is harnessing it’s social media power to provide healthy lunches to children in South Africa and you my friends can be a part of it! I and so many of you not only have the luxury of time to prepare healthy lunches such as the one above, but also the money and resources to do it. Not everyone is so lucky. The statistics in South Africa are staggering: 65% of children in the country live in poverty and 20% of are orphans with 1.9 million of them orphaned as a result of the AIDS epidemic that that has plagued their great nation. What these children need is a community of support and the The Lunch Box Fund is answering that need by providing South African students with healthful lunches that will nourish their body and mind as they continue their education in school.

A part of what the Lunch Box Fund is asking food bloggers to do is , first of all, encourage donations through February 16th. That’s only 4 days of bringing your own lunch to work instead of buying it, saying no to morning lattes, or just giving a little bit from the extra funds that you already have. I will be donating $25 to the fund and I hope that you join me. The second thing they ask is to share a favorite lunch recipe that food bloggers eat at at home, work, or school. I am delighted to say that mine features a Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette that is so easy, economical and will add tons of flavor to any of your favorite salads. The healthy goodness that I chose to mix it with included: crunchy greens, mixed dried fruit (raisins, blueberries, cranberries), tiny broccoli florets, grilled chicken, and walnuts –> total brain food! Here’s how it’s made!

Ingredients:

2/3 cup of olive oil

1/3 cup of balsamic vinaigrette

2 Tablespoons of honey

1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon of salt

1/8 teaspoon of pepper

Directions:

Combine all ingredients into a container with a lid, or one of those handy dandy dressing shakers. Shake vigorously (maybe do the hokey pokey), and serve over the suggested salad above or your own favorite!

In addition to encouraging donations to feed South Africa’s young minds and sharing a recipe for one of THE yummiest salad dressings on the face of the planet, this post is also in dedication to my dear professor, advisor, friend, mentor, and all around hero: Dr. Donald Will. Dr. Will was the head of the Peace Studies department at Chapman University where I received my undergraduate degree, but he was so much more than that. He was a fighter for the downtrodden, a wise confidant for the seeking student, a staunch advocate for justice, and completely dedicated to the movement towards equality in South Africa. He was one in a million and yesterday, he passed away. He had such a profound influence on not only my education, but also how I viewed the world and my place in it. I would not be who I am today without his guidance and I wanted to take this moment to thank him for it. Thank you Dr. Will

This Is How I Shop: An Ode to Sweets

20140208_173036Well, this is it folks, the week leading up to Valentine’s Day. Can you hear it? The frantic figures typing away to make last minute flower deliveries. The crazy swiping as Open Table apps are downloaded and dinner reservations are made. I must say, I am looking forward to dining out this Valentine’s Day, which is a rare thing for me to say on a normal day. My husband usually cooks me dinner for the occasion, but this year, it’s dinner and a movie. We’re so old-fashioned :) In honor of the big day, this week’s theme is an Ode to Sweets, but not necessarily all baked goods. Here’s what I plan on making with the above ingredients. (Do you like the semi-boudoirness of this photos or is too weird?)

Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips = The Pioneer Woman’s Dark Chocolate Brownies

Like most of her recipes I have been drooling over pictures of these brownies on her blog since they popped up there a little over a week ago. Anything with dark chocolate I am for and the added richness of using it in brownies is too much to resist. Thankfully, National Chocolate Day aka Valentine’s Day is around the corner, so I don’t have to! I am going to make these to share with our friends who are visiting from Oregon and on their way to moving to Wisconsin.

Sweetened Coconut Flakes = Overnight Coconut Chia Oatmeal

Also another dish I plan on spoiling our friends with. This is a meal from the Daniel Plan book that I got for Christmas, which has thus far been very inspiring for my 2014 cooking. Healthy, sweet, and breakfast food? Count me in!

Honey = Honey Garlic Balsamic Vinaigrette

I made this to douse my salad with at lunch today and it was divine. I purchased this OXO Salad Dressing Shaker with plans to make my own dressings this year and so far, those plans have come to fruition. I know this vinaigrette will be taking up permanent residence in my fridge as a go to addition to my weekly meals. I’m guessing I might need another one of these. Maybe a Valentine’s Day gift?

Well I hope your week is filled with sweets, both sinful and satisfying. Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day shared with the ones that you love!

Style & Olympic Obsession: Bold & Feminine

Bold & Feminine

earrings / shoes / shirt / skirt / nail polish / these lips / this hair color / this hair cut

I am not a huge Valentine’s Day person, but I am a romantic and I love planning outfits for special occasions. While I hope my V-Day includes an indulgent dinner at PF Chang’s followed by hand-holding while watching Winter’s Tale with Colin Farrell and Jessica Brown Findlay (it’s been too long Lady Sybil), all I truly care about is being with my sweet hubby. However, if I were to dream up the perfect ensemble, the above would be it. I’ve been slowly trying to transition my style and the big thing for me would be hair, since I am known for my super curly and long locks. I don’t know if it will work with my do’, but a girl can dream can’t she? And with a little over a month away from moving into our house, buying a whole new outfit is definitely dreaming.

Speaking of ‘Bold & Feminine’, just watched this interview with Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. Talk about brave and inspiring – just what I needed before getting lost in the beauty of Olympic figure skating! Gosh I love it, maybe it’s the Canadian in me?

….More good powerful female athlete goodness –> “If you don’t love what you do, you won’t do it with much conviction or passion.” – Mia Hamm

Salmon & Quinoa Superfoods Salad (gluten free)

salmonHave you ever seared salmon? No? Well you are certainly missing out, and I was until I whipped up this dish inspired by a recipe a co-worker of mine sent me. You will be blown away by how simple this dish is in comparison to how delectable and rich it tastes. Searing salmon is seriously where it’s at. Seriously. And since I added so many flavors to the salmon, this salad doesn’t require any dressing beyond the simple squeeze of lemon and sprinkle of olive oil that you will see in the ingredients and directions below. I think I perplexed my husband a little bit when I told him he doesn’t need to put dressing on his salad (he just stared at me in confusion for a few seconds), but after one bite he didn’t need any more convincing.

So why Superfood in the name? Two words: salmon and quinoa. Along with the good fats in avocado, vitamin packed heirloom tomatoes, and the cleansing benefits of cilantro and onion – this is the salad you want to eat! And I am not lying when I say you will also want to gobble up every last bit of it once you do try it. Which you should…today!

Cook and Prep Time (Including Quinoa): 35 minutes; Serves: 2

Ingredients:

2 salmon filets (skin removed, 4-6 oz. each)

2 Tablespoons of olive oil

1/2 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning

1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa, cooled

1/2 cup of chopped mini heirloom or cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup of finely chopped green lettuce

1/4 cup of diced red onion

1/4 cup of chopped cilantro or parsley

1/2 avocado, thinly sliced

Juice from half a lemon

Directions:

Cook quinoa according to directions. Set aside to cool.

Heat a large pan with lid over medium heat and add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle 1 side of the filets with the seasoning and add to pan. Allow to cook for two minutes without the lid, add the remainder of the seasoning to the side facing up, then cover for approximately 4 minutes. Flip the salmon, cooking for two minutes without the lid, then cover and continue to cook for another 4 minutes.

While salmon is finishing up cooking, combine quinoa, tomatoes, lettuce, red onion, cilantro, 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, lemon, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Toss to combine ingredients then divide into two on a plate. Place 1/4 of the avocado, thinly sliced, over the quinoa salad on one, then the other 1/4 on the other.

When salmon is done cooking and cool enough to touch, flake the filets with a fork over each of the plates. Dress with more lemon and red pepper flakes if desired. Enjoy :)

This Is How I Shop: Super(Foods) Week

As I’m writing this I am nibbling on my lunch for today, TJ’s Egglant Wrap with Tahini dressing, while grinning from ear to ear like a total goof. Why? Because it’s grey and cloudy outside, finally some weather that semi-resembles winter! It rained last night so the ground has that perfect, wet look and the fresh, cool air is absolutely intoxicating. Can you get high from happiness? Yeah, I think you can. That and combined that I just had an incredible grocery shop at TJ’s and I am pretty set for Friday night and the weekend to start.

So how I thought I would conduct these posts is highlighting some of the items that I purchased that will be featured in meals I plan to make this week. Sometimes the meals will be all self-inspired, sometimes they will be ones from my favorite food blogs or cookbooks, but most of the time it will be a mix of the two. This week it will be the latter and also this week I’m focusing on some SUPERFOODS that I bought and which will play a major role in my weekly menu. I know you’re thinking: “Superfoods instead of Superbowl?? Wow, this woman is a genius!” Believe me, I thought the same thing :) I also thought the idea of finding an appropriate theme for each week would help narrow in my writing as well as my decisions on meals. So here it goes, first up…

Red Grapes!20140131_133125I will literally be “eating the colors of the rainbow” when I eat these babies when I make Pinch of Yum’s Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing later this week. The recipe calls for curly lettuce, but I’m going to attempt to make it with this bag of green, healthy goodness that I picked up:

NEW FIND -> Cruciferous Crunch Collection20140131_132751This just looked too good to pass up and I can imagine incorporating it into a lot of other healthy, weeknight meals too. Next on the list:

Mini Heirloom Tomatoes20140131_132647I usually alternative between these and Roma tomatoes. I love how much the colors pop when I add these to salads and other dishes. Look at that green one in the corner…it looks like a watermelon! Too cute I will be putting these in a Salmon & Quinoa Superfood Salad that I will be sharing with you later this week. Get it, “superfood” salad for a “superfood” themed post? I promise I won’t always be that literal.

Avocado & Sweet Potato20140131_133047Posting these two together because this heavenly, creamy pairing is going to be divine in my rendition of Cookie + Kate’s Sweet Potato Burrito Smothered in Avocado Salsa Verde. Because really good and burrito-sized tortillas that are gluten-free are usually hard to come by, I’m going to mix up this recipe by layering the sweet potato and black beans over rice or quinoa, then smothering THAT with avocado salsa verde sauce. Yumyumyumyumyum.

Obviously this is not a full picture of what I will be whipping up for meals this week, but it gives you a good taste of what my choice of recipes usually leans toward and specifically some ones I know will be filling our plates starting Monday.

Have a great Superbowl Weekend! I’ll be whipping up some Green Deviled Eggs to share with my fam during the big game. Just some Greek yogurt, green onion, and tons of fresh herbs. Try it for yourself to put a healthy spin on your game day treats!

Salted Caramel Turtle Cookies

20140125_125845These cookies are way too delicious for their own good. I made these cookies over the weekend, brought them over to my family’s house on Saturday morning, and between six people, they were all gone by Sunday evening. That’s 3 dozen cookies, factoring in my two teenage siblings, divided by…ok too much math, let’s just say these are super yummy.

Now I know it’s January and we’re all supposed to be eating “clean” and working “out”, well maybe “in” with the weather most of the country is having :) Good one, right? Riiighttt. Anyways, this girl was hankering for a really good, non-healthy, but not too over the top cookie. These Salted Carmel Turtle Cookies were just what I needed, and what my family needed, but didn’t even know they wanted! I ended up using regular white flour for these babies, but you can easily substitute gluten-free flour. I had a bunch of regular stuff hanging around from the holidays, but I kind of wish I had made these gf. Oh well, there will definitely be a next time for these!20140125_125016

Cook Time for One Batch: 13-15 minutes; Yields: Approximately 3 dozen

Ingredients:

1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter, softened

1/2 cup of white sugar

1/2 cup of brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 1/2 cups of flour (please feel free to use gluten-free!)

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of baking soda

1/8 teaspoon of sea salt

3/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chunks

1/2 cup of low salt peanuts

Trader Joe’s Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce for drizzle

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl or stand up mixer, cream butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla for about one minute until it starts to lighten. Add half of the flour, the baking powder, soda, and salt. Combine slowly, then add the remainder of the flour. Mix until thoroughly combined. Add chips and peanuts.

Roll out balls of dough, approximately 2 Tablespoons. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown. Before a batch is ready, warm up caramel sauce for about 30-45 seconds in the microwave, or until liquid-y enough to drizzle. Place a paper towel under the racks where cookies will get transferred to and cool. As soon as cookies are out of the oven, take a small spoon to the caramel and carefully drizzle lines across each cookie. VERY IMPORTANT to do this when the cookies are hot. If you are storing them afterwards, make sure to put a line of wax paper between each row of cookies so the caramel stays intact. Then just sit back, grab a cookie or two for yourself, and watch them fly off the plate :)